It is officially gazpacho season. It’s not yet gazpacho season when you get your first summer tomato, but it is when you get another six after that — tomatoes so ripe, so juicy, so sweetnow, that you have to capture their flavors immediately. For me, the capture of summer’s bounty comes in the form of gazpacho.
In Tucson, the season of gazpacho begins when it hits 100; when it hits 100, I stop checking the weather — it is just hot — and start making gazpacho. It wasn’t until my second summer in Tucson that I tried making this cold tomato soup sourced from the plains of southern Spain, where the summer heat rivals even Tucson’s.
I’d been hesitant about gapzacho. Cold tomato soup? No thanks, I’d rather have a salad. But good gazpacho is so much better than a salad. For one, it’s like a salad in a blender — no chopping required! (Or, at least, very little, and with minimal consequence, as the blender corrects any errors.) And, unlike a salad, gazpacho elevates its ingredients through combination. A juicy tomato combines with a crisp bell pepper; an onion integrates with olive oil. Keep in mind you don’t want to create a tomato smoothie — you want to pulse your blender until the ingredients are integrated but still chunky.
Like a summer salad, you can add almost any summer vegetable to gazpacho — blending it up with tomatoes and a generous pour of good olive oil will highlight and brighten its fresh flavors. I start with a base of ripe tomatoes, cucumber, yellow onions, olive oil, and garlic, and build from there. Fresh herbs, like basil or cilantro, are a nice addition, but not necessary. Some recipes call for skinned and cored tomatoes, but I leave the skins on — I think it makes the soup heartier and more flavorful, with the added bonus that I don’t have to stand in my hot kitchen peeling tomatoes.
From there, it’s up to you. I get a little wacky with my gazpachos, but then again, why not? I’ve roasted tomatillos and made green gazpacho; I’ve thrown in zucchini, sweet corn, and even cantaloupe, which made the whole thing creamy and sweet.
Summer Garden Gapzacho
6 tomatoes, skins on, roughly chopped
2 cucumbers, peeled
1 red bell pepper
½ onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar (apple cider vinegar works too)
1 teaspoon chile powder
Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor. Blend for one to three minutes, depending on your preferred consistency. Chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes, or as long as you can stand to wait.
You can garnish your gazpacho with crunchy corn strips, avocado, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), sour cream, or, if you’re feeling really fancy, crème fraîche. To make unprocessed corn crunches, buy corn tortillas made with only corn flour and lime. Cut into thin strips and bake for 20-30 minutes at 450 degrees.