Gazpacho with Creamy Cucumbers and Croutons

Making gazpacho always reminds me of last summer where I spent almost two months living in Spain and I had an opportunity of tasting some variations of this classic soup.  I say  variations as there are many ways of preparation depending on...

Making gazpacho always reminds me of last summer where I spent almost two months living in Spain and I had an opportunity of tasting some variations of this classic soup.  I say  variations as there are many ways of preparation depending on the region in Spain. Once I was even served a gazpacho from a bottle bought at supermarket and I must say, it was not as bad as I anticipated. I remember the nights dining on a small terrace. The sun was already down, as the Spanish serve dinner at 9 or 10 p.m., and we‘d sit and talk for hours. The air was still warm but the ocean breeze made it just perfect.   Terrace was decorated with many colorful fabrics, the orange table cloth, small striped pillows and loose white curtains dancing in a wind. In this atmosphere I was offered my first gazpacho in Spain. It was served in a very small bowl garnished with fresh cut cucumber and croutons. The taste just fit the moment.  So refreshing, and full bodied that I can still imagine little pieces of vegetables and the crispy finish of the croutons in my mouth. Feels like it was just yesterday.

I adapted the original gazpacho recipe a little to conform to my liking.It may be a surprise to you, but my recipe includes a heat process. It is not long though and serves only to develop the flavours from vegetables, smoothen the taste of the onion and garlic, and soften the ingredients to make them easier to blend into a smooth consistency. Moreover, I´m always trying to highlight the health benefits of my dishes and as I often state in my recipes,tomatoes are more beneficial for our body after being heated as lycopen develops in higher temperatures.

I also don´t use bread to thicken the soup, as vegetables make it thick enough and in my geographics, vegetables do not always have that full bodied flavour of veggies in the Mediterranean, so adding bread would just reduce the  explosion of flavour.  It all depends on the ingredients you use and your taste preferences.

¡Buen apetito!

Ingredients

1 medium onion

2 cloves of garlic

400g canned tomatoes

1 red bell pepper

1 cucumber ( 2/3  for topping, 1/3  for soup)

3 tabespoons of olive oil

2 tablespoons of cooking sherry

2 cups of water

salt, pepper

1 stale bun, diced for croutons

180g sour cream

Fresh parsley leaves for topping

Preparation

  1. Grate 2/3 of the cucumber,  season with salt and let stand for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Cut onion, garlic , bell pepper and the balance of the1/3 cucumber,  into cubes and put in a blender.
  3. Add canned tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar season with salt and pepper to the blender and blend until smooth or rather almost smooth.  (the ingredients are fresh and chunky so you keep the structure and visible pieces).
  4. Pour into a pot add the two cups of water, put on a medium heat and bring to a boil.
  5. Let boil for about 5 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, squeeze  out the water from grated and salted cucumber. Add sour cream and mix well.
  7. Dice the stale bun, toss in 2 tablespoons of oil, and roast on a low heat until crispiness.
  8. Remove soup from heat and blend again, as the bigger pieces of vegetables softened it will get even smoother now.(if using the blend, remember soup is hot so blend in small amounts at a time.  An immersion blender is easier as blending can be done directly in the pot).
  9. Serve topped with a spoon of sour cream or yogurt-cucumber dressing, croutons and sprinkle with fresh parsley.

What is a Gazpacho?

The general understanding is that gazpacho is a cold soup made of tomatoes. There are however many kinds of gazpacho and not all of them contain tomatoes and fresh pepper. What they often have in common is a base made of garlic, bread, vinegar and salt. Originally the vegetables were processed in a mortar and pestle which, due to time constraints,was replaced by a blender.

Some gazpachos even include strawberries to add sweetness usually during the colder periods when sweet ripe tomatoes are hard to get. When you encounter a red coloured Spanish soup it doesn´t have to be a gazpacho.Here are some related soups to extend your knowledge:

Ajo blanco or "white gazpacho"

Typical for Andalusian region is made of bread, garlic, crushed almonds, vinegar and salt so the colour is white ("blanco","ajo" meaning garlic).

Porra Antequerana or Salmorejo

Also originated in Andalusía is very similar to gazpacho but thicker, using more bread. Served as a tapas or appetizer rather than a soup. When you see a gazpacho garnished with eggs and ham "jamón" you are definitely looking at Porra or Salmorejo.

Gazpacho de La Mancha or Torta de Gazpacho

...same as Don Quijote, originating in La Mancha, this is more like gazpacho´s step-brother than brother. It includes also meat and for a comparison it is like a Bolognese sauce. Torn pieces of bread "torta" are mixed into or added as a side dish.