September 19, 2012
In the midst of the August heatwave, Maxence and I sat at a dappled table of a restaurant in Urdax, a pretty village in the Spanish Basque country, and ordered gazpacho.
It was brought to us in white ceramic bowls, with a side plate of toppings to sprinkle in -- cucumbers, green bell peppers, and onions, all of them finely diced, flakes of serano ham, and tiny croutons -- and we slurped it all down thirstily.
Usually, when I lay my hands on excellent tomatoes, which is hard enough to do in Paris without taking out a mortgage, I tend to eat them simply, à la croque-au-sel (sliced and sprinkled with salt) or in very elemental tomato salads, dressed with a good olive oil, a touch of balsamic vinegar (I like the one from Beaumes-de-Venise I get from Première Pression Provence), a scatter of fresh herbs, and possibly a spoonful of black tapenade stirred in.
But the nostalgic remembrance of this beautifully quenching tomato soup inspired me to make it at home with one of the last batches of sun-kissed, ripe-to-bursting, fleshy tomatoes I got this summer.
I worked with the ingredients I had on hand, and therefore skipped the cucumber, which is often added, but wasn't missed. And for practicality's sake, I opted to not peel the tomatoes, and to process the soup finely enough that it wouldn't need sieving. (I also thinned it a little further after taking the above picture.)
It was astonishingly good, fruity and tangy and savory, all qualities a good gazpacho should display, and so gratifying I vowed to make it more often in the future. And after consulting my crystal ball, I saved a few servings in the freezer, in preparation for the gray months ahead.
A final note: some people say a chilled tomato soup that's thickened with bread loses gazpacho naming rights and becomes a salmorejo; I'll let you decide what you want to call it. And for a detailed discussion on the gazpacho-making technique, I'll refer you to Felicity Cloake's take on How to make perfect gazpacho.
- 100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) day-old bread, diced (I used stale baguette)
- 1 kilogram (2 1/4 pounds) very ripe tomatoes, diced
- 1 bell pepper (any color, I used red), seeds removed and diced
- 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 60 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar, or more to taste
Put the bread in a bowl and add cold water just to cover. Let stand for 15 minutes, then squeeze to remove excess water.
In a medium bowl, combine the bread, tomatoes (including the skin, seeds, and juice), bell pepper, garlic, and salt. Put on an apron, and, using a blender or an immersion blender, process until completely smooth.
Stir in the olive oil and vinegar, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, and up to a day. Just before serving, add cold water as needed to reach the consistency you like. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve chilled, with optional garnishes such as finely diced cucumbers, green bell peppers, and onions, flakes of serano ham, and tiny croutons.
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