Saturday, August 2, 2008


Gazpacho, no surprise here, is a Spanish word with perhaps Moorish overtones. It may be related to the word caspicias, meaning "leftover bits." Indeed it is made with bits and pieces of whatever you have and/or prefer, served cold or room temperature in a fresh tomato base. As such, it is best made in the summer with luscious vine-ripened tomatoes.

I have made gazpacho many times. Every recipe for it is the same in one regard: tomatoes are at the heart of it; and different in another regard: add what you like despite whatever the recipe says.

The game plan below is derived from two recipes I found in our personal collection (375 pages built up over nearly 25 years and bound in 4 3-ring notebooks). It is modified to accomodate some things we had in the fridge, and some things I just chose to include.

According to my philosophy of food preparation, you should make this exactly as below - or not. I intended for it to be a one-dish meal - hence the addition of egg and beans as protein components. The use of canned tomato sauce gives the soup an undertone of richness. The commercial veggie juice brings its own interest, and the tomatoes, among the earliest of the 2008 summer season, make it seem overwhelmingly refreshing.

The amounts below are reasonably precise. What you must do at home is taste the final product and ask yourself if you can tell that every single ingredient is evident - nothing should overwhelm, but you should be able to say to yourself: the saltiness is to my taste, I feel the vinegar, I want more spice, etc.

3 tomatoes (about 1 1/2 to 3 cups after chopping)
1/2 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely diced
2 scallions, finely chopped
1/2 large red bell pepper, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced or mashed
1/2 jalapeno or other pepper, minced
1/8 cup sherry vinegar
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups Knudsen "Very Veggie" juice (or V-8, or tomato juice)
1 cup small white beans, or black beans
4-6 basil leaves, rolled up and cut in a julienne
salt, pepper, cayenne, to taste
4 hard boiled eggs, sliced or chopped
juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup fresh corn kernels (optional - we had some on hand)

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Cut a small "x" in the base of each tomato. Place them in the boiling water for exactly one minute. Then transfer them to a sink full of cold water to cover. As soon as you can handle them, cut out the stem spot and slip the skin off. Chop the tomatoes very fine.

Add all ingredients together in a large bowl (except the lime juice and egg, which you should add right as you serve the gazpacho). Mix well and taste. Add more of anything you wish.

The yield is 5-6 cups, enough to serve 4.

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