What is the Difference Between Hot Gazpacho and Tomato Soup?
Answer: About $10
It’s easy to abuse gazpacho. After all, it’s just pureed raw vegetables, their quality making the difference between being delicious and being just glorified V8 juice. Made with sun ripened, local tomatoes at their peak of flavor in the summer, it is a super simple treat.
Like many beloved food names, the word gazpacho has come to mean something other than its original connotation. Today it can be any pureed vegetable concoction, usually served cold, but sometimes not.
The word’s origin is lost in history with various scholars attributing it to Arabic, Greek, Hebrew or Latin.
There are white gazpachos and green, but the classic has a tomato base, sometimes embellished with a little vinegar or olive oil. Easily made in these days of blenders and food processors, it’s a cold mélange of tomatoes (maybe seeded and/or peeled), maybe peppers, garlic, onion, stale bread, olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice (depending on how flavorful your tomatoes are). To be really authentic, and have a coarser texture, pull out the mortar and pestle.
Believed to have originated in Spain, gazpacho recipes vary by where it is made and the tastes of the person making it. The Andalucía and Catalonia regions (and maybe others) claim to be its birthplace, but it surely originated earlier, perhaps in the Middle East or ancient Rome. Whatever your favorite Mexican haunt wants you to believe, it is definitely not of Latin American heritage, other than by way of the conquistadors.
Regardless of where it was invented, I was delighted with the version presented at an “authentic Slow Food” Catalan restaurant in Barcelona on a hot summer’s day: Watermelon Tomato Gazpacho. Bright red and extremely light with no bread or other thickening, it was poured over a tiny garnish of red watermelon and tomato cubes resting in a pool of Spanish olive oil, which rose to the shimmering surface making little dots. I later learned that a friend from Madrid (who is an excellent cook) routinely puts melon into her gazpacho blend.
You can occasionally find pre-made gazpacho in US supermarkets, but in Spain, there are whole sections devoted to it.
White gazpacho is made from pale ingredients like cucumber, garlic, almonds, lemon, maybe a little parsley or cilantro or white grapes, and is often served with a seafood garnish.
The green version is a puree of raw green vegetables with a little vegetable or chicken stock, or a little cream.
On a totally inauthentic, but probably delicious, side are things like mango gazpacho, to which I say, why not call it cold mango soup?