I was poking around on Food52 the other day and came across a recipe for Mama’s Summer Gazpacho, from one of my favorite early participants in the site. The headnote above the recipe was equal parts loving ode and adamant defense: “Purists may question this recipe’s lack of bread, or the use of tomato juice, but I firmly believe…” and so on.
She was right to defend herself. Gazpacho is a deeply personal thing, and when people say they have their favorite recipe, what they probably mean is that they almost definitely like their own gazpacho better than yours. Some people are loyal to entirely smooth versions containing not much more than tomato. Others swear by those sweet-ish gazpachos containing watermelon. And while I’ve never heard someone hold white gazpacho above red as their favorite, those people must be out there, somewhere. Pretty much every time I serve or eat gazpacho, I look around the table and see that people have strong opinions about what’s in the bowl. They grew up on a certain kind of gazpacho, and convincing them that yours is equally lovable may be out of reach.
There are exceptions to this rule. We recently swooned over gazpacho made by our friend Josh, which was based on (gasp!) canned tomatoes, and stood up well to the best fresh versions I’ve had. It wasn’t my recipe, but you better believe I asked him to share it. It’s a great one for the files, especially when you’re craving cold soup and fresh tomatoes aren’t quite ready for a spotlight. I’ll share it on here one of these days.
But today, I’m here to share my favorite gazpacho with you. What you need to know:
- It uses fresh tomatoes.
- It contains two distinct textures: a smooth soup, and a diced salad toss-in.
- the smooth soup does not include bell peppers, because I’m pretty sure pureed green bell peppers ruin things.
- It contains two kinds of chile: fresh jalapeno, and chipotle in adobo.
- It does not contain tomato juice (though I, too, have a soft spot for recipes that call for it).
- It is wonderful.
The most important thing about my gazpacho is #2 above, the two distinct textures. I prefer my gazpacho not entirely smooth, and I especially love the sensation of a smooth soup punctuated by perfect little chunks of all the vegetables. Dicing does take time, but I tend to zone out as I do it, and once I get into the rhythm, the process can be meditative. The other benefit of having two separate textures is that I really don’t like green bell peppers in blended gazpacho, because I find that they make the soup turn much more quickly, sending off a gassy flavor after a day or so in the fridge. I don’t mind green bell peppers as part of the chopped salad, though, since somehow this helps keep their potency at bay.
So here it is: my favorite gazpacho. Maybe not your favorite, but perhaps you’ll find some things to love about it nonetheless.
My Favorite Gazpacho
6 Persian or 2 English cucumbers (if using English, halve the cucumbers lengthwise and seed them)
3 red bell peppers
1/2 a small green bell pepper
6 very good beefsteak (regular) or 8 plum tomatoes
1 large red onion
1 jalapeno pepper, cored and seeded (cut into big slices)
1/2 a canned chipotle in adobo sauce
3 large garlic cloves
2 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (red, sherry, or champagne vinegar will also work)
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt (more to taste)
Set your cutting board on a work space, and put one medium bowl and one large bowl next to the cutting board. The medium bowl is where you’ll collect your diced vegetables for the toss-in; the large bowl will hold all the big chunks that you’ll eventually puree.
Cut the following vegetables into as small and even a dice as possible:
- 2 Persian cucumbers (or 1/2 an English)
- 1 red bell pepper
- Half green bell pepper
- 2 tomatoes (or 3 plum tomatoes)
- 1/4 of the red onion
- half the jalapeno
Toss them into the medium bowl as you go. My approach is to dice the parts that seem easiest, and toss the edges and other odd pieces into the large bowl for blending. When you’re finished, you’ll have a very pretty diced salad.
Add the remaining ingredients to a blender in two batches, trying to add about half of each ingredient in each batch so you can taste and adjust seasoning as you go. I often add an extra teaspoon or so of white wine vinegar after tasting a batch. Either way, once you’ve blended everything, combine in the large bowl or a pitcher, stir to combine the two batches, and taste again for any needed adjustments.
I really love this soup not-quite-cold, so you can serve it immediately after making it without chilling it first. If you do make it a day in advance, be sure to taste it after it spends a night in the fridge; the flavors often settle, and it may need a pinch more salt or another sprinkle of vinegar.
To serve, ladle the smooth soup into bowls and top with a big spoonful of the diced salad. Serve extra salad on the side for guests to mix in as they eat.