Cool Summer Soups

Lunch, Recipes, Seasonal Foods
on August 1, 2008
Senora Mercedes Sanchez's Gazpacho
Mark Boughton Photography / styling by Teresa Blackburn

My dad has never been to Spain, but as the song goes, he kind of likes the music and the food, or at least his own, um, unique stylings of such dishes as Arroz con Pollo (fairly successful), Tortilla de Patata (catastrophic) and Gazpacho (noble effort). Growing up, though, I liked his gazpacho. He made it from canned tomato juice and beef broth, but of course, I didn’t know any better.

Now I do. I’ve not only been to Spain, I’ve lived with a Spanish woman for quite a while, so I’m entitled to say that the ladies are indeed insane there—but in a nice way. Mercedes can’t even boil water, but her mother makes incredible gazpacho—even better than my dad’s.

Gazpacho is cold tomato soup, sans cream, and it’s perfect for hot summer weather. Served as a stand-in for salad, this liquefied medley of vegetables is easy, light and refreshing. It originated in the blow-torch heat of Andalusia. Lore holds that it was originally made with mortar and pestle by field workers who made their lunch by plucking the bounty of the gardens.

Each region has its own version, from the thick Porro of Granada, chock with boiled eggs, olives and fried potatoes, to the Gazpacho Blanco of Extremadura, made with almonds and eggs. Any Spanish recipe for gazpacho is intentionally inexact, allowing for individual preferences for the ratio of tomatoes to other ingredients. Needless to say, fresh, well-ripened tomatoes are non-negotiable—that is, of course, unless you make Cucumber and Avocado Gazpacho, equally good on a hot day but a totally different taste.

By Martin Booe, a writer in Los Angeles, Calif.