Tomato gazpacho is not redundant.
Gazpacho got its start in Andalusia, the southern-most province of Spain, sometime between the 8th and 12th centuries – long before the tomato arrived on European soil. Owing to its origins and its meaning – gazpacho comes from an Arabic word meaning “soaked bread” – some food historians believe the Moors brought the dish to Spain as a sophisticated field ration.
Other food historians trace the dish to the early Romans, who soaked their stale bread in vinegar and olive oil, before puréeing it. In that case, they believe the Latin word “caspa,” meaning “residue” or “fragment” came to inspire the word gazpacho.
All of which means that gazpacho is more about bread and vinegar, than it is about tomatoes. Indeed, a white gazpacho, ‘”ajo blanco,” made from almonds, bread, garlic, vinegar, and garnished with green grapes, remains incredibly popular in Malaga, Spain. Another white gazpacho, from the Estremadura region, mixes eggs and cucumbers into the bread, vinegar, garlic, and oil mixture.
So no matter which gazpacho you decide to make, it should include olive oil, garlic, and a good vinegar (I like to use sherry vinegar). For tomato gazpacho, fat, juicy, vine-ripened tomatoes are best, but if unavailable, canned tomatoes will work fine. When using bell peppers, red or yellow are preferable to the bitterness of green peppers. Finally, gazpacho is best made in advance. Allowing the gazpacho to chill for several hours helps the flavors to blend and ripen, while allowing the vinegar to fade into the background. I kept my tomato gazpacho in the refrigerator for several days, and each serving seemed to be better than the last!
When serving gazpacho, it’s common to pass around bowls full of croutons, diced tomatoes and cucumbers, and finely chopped scallions, allowing each guest to individually garnish their gazpacho. If you’re making croutons, a good white bread is probably the most common, though I was quite pleased with the croutons I made from my leftover brioche!
PREP TIME: 10 minutes, but chilling recommended
YIELD: Serves 4
WHAT TO GRAB:
3 large tomatoes, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1/2 red pepper, seeded and chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons sherry vinegar
3/4 cup water or tomato juice (depending on desired thickness)
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
FOR THE CROUTONS:
6 slices of brioche or crusty bread
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
HOW YOU DO IT:
1. Combine tomatoes, onion, cucumber, pepper, garlic, oil, vinegar, and water in a blender. Process on low speed until well combined, but still thick. Pour the mixture into a large jar or bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
2. Heat a large skillet with olive oil over medium-low heat. Dice the bread into half-inch cubes and fry them until browned.
3. Serve the chilled gazpacho in bowls or ramekins, and garnish with a thin slice of cucumber and a handful of croutons!