The abundant summer harvest calls for gazpacho. This cold summer soup uses tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions and herbs and nothing beats it on a hot summer evening. I never make it quite the same and vary the ingredients depending on what is available and what I will be serving it with. Sometimes we have it before the main dish and sometimes we have as the main dish with just cheese and bread. Here are some basic guidelines to play with. You will want everything diced small so every spoonful has several flavors.
Tomatoes- Tomatoes are the base of the soup. They should be the freshest and most flavorful you can find. I like to use heirlooms I find at the farmers’ market since I don’t have a garden myself. I use 2-3 different varieties to get the richest flavor. The tomatoes should be cut into small pieces. If I am making it for company I will peel and seed the tomatoes and dice them, but the family does not always get that special touch.
Vegetable juice- I prefer vegetable juice thinned with water for my “broth” I have played with using chicken or vegetable broth but wasn’t fond of it. I find tomato juice to be too thick. Vegetable juice and water in a 2 to 1 combination seems perfect to me.
Peppers- Now we are having fun! Any combination of hot and sweet peppers that you think will be good will work. I use whatever catches my eye for the sweet ones. 2-3 depending on size. Dice them small. The hot ones can get tricky. You want some spice but not too much. Jalapeños or serranos are good bets, use 1 or 2, minced. But experiment. It is better to need to add hot sauce at the table that to have it too spicy.
Cucumber- 1 whole cucumber diced is usually good. I leave the skin on and seeds in. The cucumber cools everything down and the gazpacho is not complete without it.
Onions- Red onions or green onions are my first choices. Yellow onions can be too strong so go easy with them if they are all you have. Sweets like Vidalias are too sweet and break down quickly. Cut the onions into a nice dice.
Other veggies- Sometimes I will add celery. Corn can be a nice addition right off the cob raw. I don’t like carrots as they are too crunchy.
Additions- 1-2 cloves of garlic grated are a must. Juice from a lemon or lime adds some needed acid. A tablespoon of vinegar would work as well. A nice drizzle of olive oil is welcome to add a pleasant mouth feel. The herbs are where you can really have fun. The options include fresh basil, cilantro, parsley, thyme, oregano,chives and tarragon. Be careful if you choose to use more that one herb to balance the flavors. I decide what herb to use to compliment what I will be serving with the gazpacho.
Some people add croutons, sour cream or crème fraiche as a garnish. This does not appeal to me but you may want to try it.