This gazpacho recipe is the guarantee for “instant summer” any time of year. Originally introduced to Spain by Roman soldiers, it was a simple soup meant to soften stale bread with some type of liquid. Olive oil, garlic, water or vinegar, and bread were mixed–or pounded–together.
Then came Andalusia, the southern region of Spain, where Christopher Columbus brought the tomatoes from his voyages. Tomatoes first grew wild in the Andes mountains, what is now Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Ecuador. The Aztecs and Incas loved tomatoes so much that they began to cultivate them about 700 AD. By the time Columbus arrived, tomatoes were commonplace. (Note: Historians disagree on whether it was Columbus, the Conquistadors, or Roman priests who transported the first tomatoes, and their seeds, to Europe.)
Tomatoes love warm climates and hot weather. Andalusia was the perfect place to grow the “exotic” plant. Once they were established, it was a short and tasty leap to adding them to the stale bread mixture. Seville, Spain, became the “home” of classic gazpacho. Today, gazpacho is the generic word for cold soup. There are lots of varieties, including watermelon.
When I was walking the Camino de Santiago, gazpacho was a daily treat. Bars and restaurants had “Hay gazpacho” (“We have gazpacho”) signs to let pilgrims know it was available. For a few Euros, I could have this wonderful, cold soup all across Spain.
Like many common foods, each family or restaurant has its own recipe. There are also variations depending on what vegetables are available. The fun is in trying them all.
Today’s recipe does not come from Spain…rather from a cooking class I took long ago in Chicago. Yoshi’s Cafe. Yoshi Katsumura was the chef and owner of one of my favorite restaurants. Sadly, he died in 2015. The restaurant is still open, still serving his marvelous Japanese-French fusion food.
The day of my class, Yoshi included gazpacho. I make it almost twenty years later, and I still think it’s the best…sorry, Spain. But I give full credit to the first person who created this magnificent soup…I’m guessing it was an inventive home cook who was trying to deal with a glut of tomatoes.
The secret to perfect gazpacho? Tomato juice from a can. Yoshi told us it was the best way to get the robust tomato taste.
Gazpacho: Serves 6
1 medium green pepper
1 medium red pepper
1 small onion
2 ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeds squeezed out
1 small English cucumber, chopped fine (seeded if using regular cucumber)
1 quart tomato juice
Juice of 1 lemon
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and Tabasco sauce to taste
Yoshi likes to add green onion and cilantro, too.
Mix together and chill. Best served the same day.
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