I just got back from two glorious weeks in Spain and Portugal.
In hot, hot Spain, I found myself having gazpacho with lunch each day. With an order of boquerones (anchovies cured in vinegar) and a caña (a small beer), I was set! In a land of virtually nonexistent salads, when there’s a will, there’s always a way.
Gazpacho is made from summer’s bountiful produce – tomatoes, peppers, cucumber and garlic. Consider it a salad in liquid form. But beyond a delicious salad in the form of a soup, gazpacho has many health benefits. It’s like the perfect summer health tonic:
- Hydration. In the hot, hot, summer heat, it goes without saying that we must stay hydrated. But did you know that fruits and vegetables have been found to be even more hydrating than drinking straight water? Fruits and vegetables contain a structure of water that is more recognizable to our cells (some health experts are calling this ‘structured water’). And the companion sugars, vitamins and minerals in fruits and vegetables help our bodies to assimilate the hydration. This is why a fruit or vegetable is nature’s vitamin water and energy drink, rolled into one!
- SPF. I’ve written posts about eating to boost your body’s SPF. Lycopene, a carotenoid nutrient abundant in tomatoes, has been found to disarm free radicals that are created during sun exposure. Incidentally, all the antioxidants and phytonutrients in gazpacho can help to make your skin look better – red peppers are full of collagen-building vitamin c, and cucumbers contain silica, which helps to smooth skin and give it a youthful glow.
- Cooling. The Spanish drink gazpacho to keep themselves cool in the heat. Interestingly, gazpacho is used more as a beverage than a soup eaten as a meal. Full of cooling cucumber and fresh vegetables, it helps to lower body temperature. I learned that many people keep a large container of gazpacho in the fridge and pour a glass to sip when they need to cool off.
There are so many ways to make gazpacho, with different flavours and ingredients. My mother always had some on the go in the summer, made with tomatoes and leftover dressed salad.
Here’s a traditional gazpacho recipe that I got from my cooking instructor in Madrid.
I’ve made one small change: our tomatoes seem to lend less of a red colour to the gazpacho, so I’ve added one red and one green pepper to mine (instead of two green peppers). Be sure to use organic produce, as it’s more flavourful and the sizes are smaller. Plus, since you’re using vegetables with skin, choosing organic means that you are eating cleaner!
The Best Spanish Gazpacho
(makes around 6 cups)
- 1 kilo ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped (this is roughly 4-5 tomatoes)
- 1 green pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
- 1 red pepper, roughly chopped
- 1/2 large cucumber, peeled
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1-2 tbsp vinegar (red wine vinegar is best – be sure to buy organic!)
- 1 tsp sea salt
Put all ingredients in a blender, with the tomatoes closest to the blades. You shouldn’t need any water here. If you have a Vitamix, everything should fit; if your blender container is smaller or if you have a less powerful blender, you may need to do the blending in a few batches, and you may need to add some water. The food processor works well for gazpacho, especially if you like a little more texture.
Taste and adjust seasoning. You may want to add some more sea salt and vinegar, even some more garlic…
Then, with the motor on your blender running, add some olive oil and lightly blend until emulsified.
Serve in small glasses and sip on its own, as a starter or “side salad.” I’m sure you could even add some vodka… whatever!
Omit the cucumber to make a soup called Salmorejo. This is the soup that we usually think of as gazpacho, the one served in a bowl with cut up peppers, onions and croutons on top.
If you liked this recipe, please share it! And be sure to check out my Sesame Cilantro Gazpacho, too.