I have an incredibly soft spot for a perfectly sun-ripened tomato, plucked fresh from the vine or market stall during peak harvest. To me it is the epitome of summer, and I am overjoyed now that we are really getting into that time of year, with all its colorful, sweet tomato bounty.
Usually I keep things simple, accompanying each meal with a few tomato slices seasoned with nothing more than a dust of salt and freshly cracked pepper. In my opinion something so flavorful really doesn’t need much more. However, when I’m feeling adventurous, and especially when I have a big crop to handle, one of my favorite applications for the succulent beauties is gazpacho.
Bursting with bright, refreshing flavors, gazpacho turns the best veggies of the season into what I call Summer in a Bowl. I’ve always loved it and have eaten it in countless ways: rustic and chunky, almost like a salsa; lightly pureed, like a thick veggie smoothie; and my newest obsession, presented below, Andalusian style. Seriously, I cannot believe I had never experienced this type of gazpacho until last year, and, honestly, I might not ever make gazpacho any other way again.
Here’s how I came across it. Last summer, I was asked to prepare a lavish, multiple-course birthday dinner for a client. The birthday girl specifically requested gazpacho made with heirloom tomatoes, one of her favorite dishes. The rest of the menu was elegant and polished, including fois gras and rack of lamb, so I knew I wanted to make something more refined than the gazpachos I’d previously eaten.
Loads of research brought me to a style of gazpacho attributed to Andalusia, Spain, which blends copious amounts of olive oil with pureed vegetables to create an exquisite emulsification. This method of suspending the fat in the liquidy vegetables yields a luxurious silky texture and an intensely bright tomato flavor. It also creates the most beautiful pink and peach-colored hues, depending on the tomatoes you use.
While Andalusian gazpacho is divine on its own, a tart avocado cream accents the soup beautifully and adds a colorful contrast. A garnish of finely chopped vegetables adds crunch and visual texture, too. Be sure to use a delicate, fruity olive oil for the emulsification. Some expensive drizzling oils can have a sharp, bitter spiciness to them, which I find is too strong in such a large quantity for the delicate tomatoes. If you do have a “special occasion” olive oil you’d like to use, however, a light drizzle atop the soup upon serving is most welcomed.
Andalusian-Style Gazpacho with Avocado Cream
Makes: approximately 4 servings
Prep time: 30 minutes, plus time to chill
Cook time: none
For the gazpacho:
2 pounds red or yellow heirloom tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
2 pale green peppers (such as Cubanelle, Anaheim, or banana), seeded and roughly chopped
One 8-inch-long cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped
1 small sweet onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar, plus more to taste
2 teaspoons salt, plus more for final seasoning
½ cup fruity olive oil
Black pepper, to taste
For the avocado cream:
1 large avocado, peeled, seeded, and diced
½ cup sour cream
2 tablespoons lime juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
Finely chopped tomato, cucumber, and/or avocado
Drizzling olive oil
- Prepare gazpacho: Combine tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, onion, and garlic in a large bowl. Fill a blender with approximately half the chopped vegetables and blend them at high speed until very smooth, at least 2 minutes, stopping the blender occasionally to scrape down the sides with a spatula. Add 1 teaspoon of the vinegar and 1 teaspoon of salt and blend to combine.
- With the motor running, slowly drizzle ¼ cup olive oil into the vegetable puree. The mixture will turn a rosy or orange color, and its texture will become creamy. Stop blender and remove lid; the consistency should be like a salad dressing. If the gazpacho seems too watery (some vegetable purees will have more liquid than others), then blend in a little more olive oil.
- Pour blended soup into a large clean bowl and repeat process with the second half of the vegetable mixture, vinegar, salt, and olive oil. Pour second batch into bowl with first batch and stir to combine. (If soup is very thick, stir in a few tablespoons of ice water.) Taste and adjust seasoning by adding salt, pepper, and additional vinegar to your liking. Refrigerate until very cold, at least 6 hours, or overnight. Before serving, taste soup and add more salt, pepper, and/or vinegar if necessary.
- Prepare avocado cream: Place avocado, sour cream, and lime juice in the bowl of a food processor and puree. Thin with a little water or buttermilk if necessary (you want it about the same consistency as the gazpacho). Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve: Ladle soup into individual serving bowls and drizzle with avocado cream. Top with chopped veggies and a drizzle of olive oil if desired.
Image from Briana Goodall.