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How-To

How to Make Gazpacho

A couple of tweaks make this classic cold soup even better.

Fine Cooking Issue 118
Photos: Scott Phillips
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A couple of tweaks make this classic cold soup even better. years ago, my spanish mother-in-law gave me a small notebook filled with handwritten family recipes, one of which was for gazpacho, the king of all summer soups. She’s from Sevilla, the birthplace of gazpacho, and her version was about as classic as they come: Blend some fresh, juicy tomatoes with garlic, green bell peppers, bread, vinegar, and olive oil until smooth (there’s no cooking necessary), chill, and then serve.

My gazpacho recipe hews very closely to my mother-in-law’s. Like her, I use only the ripest, freshest farmstand or garden tomatoes (without the best, this soup falls flat). The rest of my ingredient list is pretty much the same, too, with a few tweaks that include adding red bell peppers for sweetness and cumin for nuance. It’s just as simple a recipe to make as the handwritten one given to me and just as refreshing on a hot summer day.

Recipe Slideshow:Freshest summer gazpachos in red, green, and white varieties

Need to Know

Buy the ripest, juiciest tomatoes you can find. There’s no place for mediocre tomatoes to hide in this tomato-based soup, so try to get super-fresh ones from the farmers’ market or your own garden. Look for fruit that feels heavy for its size, has a pleasant tomato aroma, and is firm with just a little bit of give (suggesting ripeness rather than bruising). Variety doesn’t matter, as long as your tomatoes are ripe and delicious.

Use sherry vinegar and great olive oil. Vinegar brightens the flavor of the gazpacho, and olive oil smooths it. For the most traditional soup, use sherry vinegar, which is made from high-quality aged Spanish sherry. Opt for a good-quality extra-virgin olive oil, too, since you’ll really taste its flavor in this uncooked soup.

Avoid bread that’s stale or that has a hard crust. Bread is blended into the soup to thicken it slightly and give it body. Stale or hard-crusted bread won’t blend in as well. For the best results, use a soft baguette, a Portuguese roll, or white sandwich bread.

Mix in red bell peppers as well as green. Many gazpacho recipes call for green bell peppers only, which I think can give the soup a bitter edge. For a more rounded flavor, I use both green and red; the latter lends sweetness and depth.

Add a pinch of cumin. It’s not traditional, but it does heighten the flavor of this soup, much the way salt does.

Blend for the best texture. A blender works better than a food processor to chop tomato skins and create a silky-smooth soup. If you do use a food processor, be sure to strain the soup through a medium-mesh sieve before chilling.

Cooks Tip

Homemade croutons add flavor and crunch. You can fry them ahead, but don’t top the soup with them until just before serving so they retain their texture.

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