If you would have told me ten years ago that I’d be making a refrigerated soup out of tomatoes, onions, and cucumber, I probably would have thought you were lying. Growing up, I didn’t even like tomatoes…in fact, I avoided them like the plague. I wouldn’t even touch ketchup, the tomato’s more lowly cousin. As my friends and siblings slathered the condiment all over their burgers and fries, I preferred my food plain- I couldn’t stand the taste.
Luckily, over the past few years I have developed a more adventurous (and dare I say, accepting?) palette, and tomatoes have become a regular part of my diet. I like them in sandwiches, salads, stir-fry, and pasta sauce. And, as it turns out, I like them very cold…in soup.
Although I can’t remember the first time I tried Gazpacho, one of the best I’ve ever tasted is from Companion Bakery and Cafe in St. Louis. I was having lunch with my friend the summer after we graduated college, as she had just moved back to St. Louis for a new job. We were sitting on the patio in the midst of ninety-degree heat, and I felt like a camel trekking through the desert, searching for the proverbial water hole. I needed to cool down, and fast.
The Gazpacho was the perfect antidote to the heat, and with every spoonful, I felt my body temperature lower by about two degrees. The cucumbers were crisp and refreshing, the tomatoes and bell peppers were sweet and juicy, and the onions were crunchy and not too overpowering. I kept dipping my baguette into the soup, and then used it to scrape the bowl clean.
I started craving the soup last week, and instead of searching for it in local cafes and restaurants, I decided to make my own. I combined hothouse cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, and spices in a big bowl, and added a huge can of tomato juice. Admittedly, it felt a bit as if I was making salsa, and I was worried about what the finished product would taste like. I didn’t want to feel like I was eating dip, rather than soup.
But once I added the Olive Oil, everything started to meld together. I let the soup sit in the refrigerator for the entire afternoon while I baked some cupcakes to take into work. By the time dinner rolled around, the mixture ressembled soup more than salsa. To recreate my original Gazpacho experience, I bought a French baguette, and occasionally dunked a few pieces into the soup. This time, I was enjoying the soup in my air-conditioned kitchen…but the result was no less satisfying, and just as refreshing.
If you can wait longer, I would recommend letting the soup sit in your refrigerator (covered) for at least a day. Gazpacho is one of the only soups I’ve tried that actually tastes better days later. In fact, Day Three is probably the best day; the Olive Oil starts working its magic, and brings out the flavor of the tomatoes and onions.
Gazpacho (slightly adapted from Ina Garten)
- 1 hothouse cucumber, halved and seeded, but not peeled
- 2 red bell peppers, cored and seeded
- 4 vine-ripened or plum tomatoes
- 1 red onion
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 23 ounces tomato juice (3 cups)
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup good olive oil
- 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
Roughly chop the cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onions into 1-inch cubes. Put each vegetable separately into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until it is coarsely chopped. Do not overprocess!
After each vegetable is processed, combine them in a large bowl and add the garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mix well and chill before serving.