The Secrets of Summer Soup
Nothing warms the body and soul on a cold winter’s night quite like a steaming bowl of soup. However, there is no reason to limit your enjoyment of the liquid dish to just the snowy months. Enter gazpacho, soup’s uncooked Spanish cousin. Served cold, gazpacho makes the perfect light, summer soup that is perfect for an outdoor luncheon with friends.
For those who have never had the pleasure of enjoying a zesty gazpacho on a summer day, you can think of the chilled soup as a kind of liquified salad. The dish originates from the Andalusia region of Spain, which covers the country’s southernmost tip and includes the major cities of Seville, Cordoba and Granada.
Gazpacho first gained international recognition when Napoleon III married the Andalusian noblewoman Eugenia de Montijo in the mid-19th century. She brought the dish to the French court, where it became an international phenomenon.
Traditionally, gazpacho is made using a tomato base. Interestingly enough, however, tomatoes were not introduced to Spain until Columbus brought them back to Europe from the New World. Before that, gazpachos were made from crushed stale bread, almonds, water, vinegar and olive oil. It was a very popular meal among the field workers who needed something crisp and refreshing to reinvigorate them after toiling in the fields.
Making your own
When making gazpacho, try to steer more toward the natural savory flavor of the tomatoes. Avoid trying to sweeten it up with a lot of added sugar or tomato juice. In fact, there is really no reason to be adding any tomato juice at all. If you are using the right tomatoes (i.e. fresh, ripe, juicy ones) they should provide enough liquid on their own.
Start by cutting your tomatoes into large chunks and adding them to your blender. Slowly add olive oil until the puree reaches the desired consistency. Next add sherry or red wine vinegar in small amounts, tasting each time until the flavors are balanced. The vinegar is a good addition to highlight the acidity of the tomatoes, but add too much and it can quickly overpower an other flavors you have working.
This tomato/olive oil/vinegar mixture makes a great base with which you can begin to experiment. Try adding jalapenos, onion, garlic, watermelon or cucumber for interesting taste combinations. To give the soup more body, add stale bread crumbs or crushed almonds. The great thing about gazpacho is that it is extremely versatile, giving you the opportunity to use all the skills you have picked up in your online culinary courses!