Like a fine wine, this gazpacho improves with age. My age that is. Some years ago, I tasted gazpacho in a Los Angeles restaurant and fell in love. Since then I’ve been on a quest to make my own at home, always feeling I’ve come up short. On top of it, my tastebuds have become more refined with age, so the bar is set ever farther. I’ve tried numerous recipes always to be disappointed. Recipes that call for tomato juice in addition to fresh tomatoes, recipes where the gazpacho marinates overnight, authentic Spanish recipes that refresh day old bread in water. None were satisfactory to me. I was determined to find the perfect gazpacho recipe for our August Garden to Table Cooking Class, so I tinkered around in the kitchen and came up with this recipe…and I finally have found my match!
The secret I learned was all in the tomatoes and using the best quality ingredients. Home grown or Farmer’s Market heirloom tomatoes make this dish. Don’t even bother making this with supermarket tomatoes that have travelled countless miles and been warehoused for days. You must have fresh, red, sweet, dripping with ripeness tomatoes. I took my reuseable plastic containers to the Culver City Farmer’s Market to carry the tomatoes home, so they wouldn’t squash together in my bag. Roasting the peppers and caramelizing the onions adds another flavor dimension, but you can use raw ingredients if you wish.
The sweetness of the tomatoes is balanced with the acidity of the balsamic vinegar with just a hint of heat from the jalapeno…and my glass of Sangria. Drizzle in extra balsamic vinegar if you prefer more acidity Traditional Spanish gazpacho is made with sherry vinegar, a product of Jerez, in the Costa del Sol, but this was not on my shelf. I like the intensity of a good quality balsamic vinegar in this dish.
Traditionally, it is thickened with day old bread, but I prefer the croutons added separately. I like the crispiness of the croutons and as you bite into its soggy interior from sitting in the liquid, the flavors of the gazpacho explode in your mouth.
Total Time: 2:40 Preparation Time: 30 minutes, Cooking Time: 10 minutes, Marinating Time: 2 hours.
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 long skinny summer pepper
- 1 jalapeno chile (use 1/2 or more, depending on taste)
- 3 pounds Red tomatoes or 5 large
- 2 persian cucumbers
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup chopped onion or caramelized onion
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 tsp + kosher salt
- 1 tsp cumin, ground
- 1 avocado
- 1/2 cup croutons (optional)
- 1 Tbs cilantro leaves
1. Roast the red pepper, long skinny pepper and jalapeno on the grill. Put in plastic bag to steam for 10 minutes. Then remove charred skin, core and remove seeds. Use 1/2 of jalapeno or more depending on taste. Set aside about 1/4 cup of red pepper for garnish.
2. Quarter tomatoes and remove seeds by hand, draining seed pods in collander over a bowl to catch juices. (Hey, save the seeds in an envelope to grow tomato plants next year.) Half the cucumbers lengthwise and remove the seeds with a spoon. Set aside one quarter of a cucumber for the garnish.
3. Process ingedients in two batches. Place 2 cloves of garlic in food processor and process until minced. Add 1/2 of all ingredients – seeded tomatoes, seeded cucumber, seeded peppers, onion to food processor and process into a puree. Repeat process with second batch. Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and cumin to second batch and process until mixed.
4. Combine batches together into large pot or bowl along with juice drained from seeds and stir. Taste for seasoning with more salt. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Allow the flavors to marinade at least 2 hours and preferably overnight.
5. Just before serving, coarsely chop reserved red pepper, cucumber and cilantro. Cube avocado. Toast Croutons. Ladle gazpacho into bowls, top with garnishes. Serve.
Servings: 8 Calories per serving: 161