Updated: Aug 5, 2022
gaz·pa·cho| ɡəˈspäCHō | a Spanish-style soup made from tomatoes and other vegetables and spices, served cold: in warm weather you can enjoy gazpacho.
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With such a vague definition, here we have yet another dish with numerous “classic” or “traditional” versions that widely differ. So what is “real” Gazpacho? According to one well-respected source, “There are a variety of different types of gazpacho but all are made with a base of garlic, bread, olive oil, and vinegar.” Assuming most of us won’t mind omitting the bread, that doesn’t leave us with much to go on.
When Americans hear “Gazpacho,” they generally expect a cold vegetable soup based on tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers with noticeable vinegar tang and some spicy heat. However, I’ve seen versions that are completely puréed, and I’ve also seen versions that are essentially large chunks of veggies mixed with thin juice… and some with cilantro, or even orange juice. Some people add corn or peaches or zucchini. Still others regard “Gazpacho” as a style rather than a recipe, as in “A Gazpacho of Asparagus.”
I think my boringly basic version is absolutely perfect on a sweltering hot early summer day. It strikes a nice balance of snappy vegetable flavors and features a seamless and palate-pleasing continuum of textures, from the juice to the puréed veggies to the chopped veggies. The result is a refreshingly zingy and spicy cold soup that one eats rather than drinks; one with all the usual and expected flavors and nothing that seems excessively creative or experimental. (If you’re a pineapple pizza type, you can also use this as a foundation and add whatever exotic ingredients you want.)
The best test of any version is, I think, how much it is enjoyed by someone who has never heard of gazpacho before. By that measure, this recipe is a proven success.
A Very Basic, Restaurant-Friendly Version of Gazpacho
(Note: This will taste better the next day… so make it the day before.)
ONE 46 oz. Can or Bottle of V-8 Juice (or a generic knock-off thereof)
ONE 46 oz. Can or Bottle of Tomato Juice
These are fairly common container sizes and give you a batch of soup that fits easily into a standard stock pot.
1½-2 Red Peppers, De-Seeded
1½-2 Green Peppers, De-Seeded
4-5 Small-to-Medium Cucumbers, Peeled & De-Seeded (Scoop out seeds w/ a teaspoon)
4-5 Small-to-Medium Stalks of Celery
1 Red Onion, Peeled
Of course you can vary these quantities a little according to taste and availability.
Organic produce is noticeably tastier in this recipe.
½ Cup Red Wine Vinegar
¼ Cup Sherry Vinegar (Do NOT use apple cider vinegar.)
3 TBSP Sriracha Hot Pepper Sauce (or some other source of spicy heat to taste)
Minced Garlic To Taste (4 Cloves Should Work. I like to puree them in the olive oil.)
½ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper (As Needed)
OPTIONAL– Chopped Fresh Italian Parsley (flat leaf) for garnish
Dice the onion, peppers, and cukes to pieces approximately the same size… ¼” is perfect; anything over ½” is too big. Cut the celery into the smallest pieces you can. As you go, add diced veggies to a large stock pot (or other container) that will fit into your refrigerator. (Pro-Tip: That $7 RESTAURANT DEPOT knife I recently reviewed performed beautifully at this task.)
Thoroughly mix diced veggies w/ the juices.
Scoop out and VERY BRIEFLY pulse-blend (but do NOT completely puree) ⅓ - ½ of the veggie/juice mix and then re-combine it with the remainder. Repeat as necessary to achieve the desired texture– not uniformly pureed, but thick enough to keep the un-blended veggies from sinking.
Carefully add seasonings to taste, mindful that you can always add more later. Allow to chill for a few hours in the fridge, then taste and re-season as needed. (Pro-Tip: The best way to add seasonings to a large batch of soup or stew is to scoop out a bowl’s worth, thoroughly mix seasonings with the bowlful, and then thoroughly mix the bowlful back into the whole batch. Adding seasonings directly can lead to uneven distribution. Also– the Sherry Vinegar is an important ingredient because it alone provides actual sweetness, which beautifully counterbalances the tang and the spicy heat.)
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This recipe serves a good-sized group; say, a dozen or more. For outdoor gatherings, there’s nothing wrong with serving this in Red Solo Cups. Leftovers will keep nicely for a couple of days. If you try to keep it for too long, the veggies will begin to ferment, creating a prickly sensation from the carbon dioxide thus produced.