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Say 'Hola' to the Three Spanish Gazpachos

By John Edward YoungStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / July 29, 1998



Gazpacho!

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It sounds like Spanish for gesundheit! But this popular classic Spanish soup is nothing to sneeze at.

It has been described as a salad masquerading as a soup, or a salad you can drink. And that's pretty close, generally.

The gazpacho usually served these days has all the ingredients of a traditional salad: tomatoes, onions, garlic, cucumbers, peppers. Even the dressing is there in the form of olive oil and vinegar. Then it's topped with homemade crusty croutons. What could please a soup or salad lover more?

But what about a bowl of creamy white soup, thickened with bread, flavored with almonds and garlic, and garnished with green grapes. That's not gazpacho, you say? Well back when Don Quixote was threatening windmills, that may well have been the version of gazpacho he had for dinner.

The word gazpacho is actually derived from Arabic for "soaked bread." Cassell's Spanish Dictionary describes gazpacho as an "Andalusian dish made of bread, oil, vinegar, onions, and garlic..." Not a tomato in sight.

Where water is called for in the avocado gazpacho, tomato, or V-8 juice may be substituted. Hot sauce or a spoonful or two of your favorite salsa can also put a personal mark on many of these soups.

To round out your Spanish soup repertoire, here are los tres gazpachos.

AVOCADO GAZPACHO

A very mild, smooth soup that may be spiced up with the addition of hot sauce. Fresh breadcrumbs give it added texture.

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped

3 cloves of garlic

1 large red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and coarsely chopped

1 cup torn lettuce

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon thyme

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 cups chicken broth, (canned is fine)

2 ripe avocados

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 cup soft bread crumbs

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Hot sauce or Tabasco (optional)

Chopped fresh dill for garnish.

Place cucumber, garlic, bell pepper, lettuce, oregano, thyme, vinegar, chicken stock, one avocado, lemon juice, and salt and pepper in food processor or blender. Process until smooth, pour into a large pan, and stir in breadcrumbs; refrigerate until well chilled.

Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt, pepper, lemon juice, and a dash of hot sauce.

Just before serving, chop remaining avocado and stir it into gazpacho. Thin soup with 1 cup of ice water, if it is too thick.

Garnish with fresh dill and garlic croutons (below). Serves 4.

WHITE GAZPACHO WITH GREEN GRAPES

Subtle, smooth, and quite unusual, this ancient version is nothing like its contemporary cousin.

1 cup blanched almonds

3 cloves garlic

2 teaspoons salt

5 slices of day-old white bread

6 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

3 cups ice water

Seedless green grapes (about 10 per serving)

Put almonds, garlic, and salt in a food processor or blender. Process until almonds are finely ground.

Remove and discard crusts from bread. Soak bread in cold water; when soft, squeeze out the moisture.

With processor or blender running, gradually add bread to the almond mixture, then add olive oil in a thin stream; add vinegar and one cup of ice water. Scrap down the bowl with a spatula and process until mixture is thoroughly blended.

Transfer soup to a bowl and add remaining ice water. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt and/or vinegar if desired. If soup is left to stand for any length of time, whisk thoroughly before serving.

Serve soup ice cold topped with grapes and garlic croutons.

Serves 4.

GAZPACHO WITH SHRIMP

The soup is quite traditional, but the shrimp (or you may add crabmeat if you prefer) adds an elegant, surprising touch.

2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped

2 pounds ripe tomatoes

2 bell peppers (red or green), stemmed, seeded, and chopped

1 medium onion

3 cloves garlic

3 cups tomato juice

1 cup water or chicken stock

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1/3 cup olive oil

3 serrano chilies, stemmed, and seeded

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Dash of Worcestershire sauce

1/2 pound cooked, peeled shrimp

Place all ingredients (except shrimp) in food processor or blender. (You may have to do this in two or more batches.) Process until blended, but chunky.

Divide into 6 chilled bowls and

garnish with shrimp.

Serves 6.

GARLIC CROUTONS

Garlic croutons add a wonderful taste and crunch to gazpacho. (And almost any soup for that matter.) Freezing the bread facilitates cutting in into cubes. Be careful when toasting, croutons and garlic tend to burn when you blink, so stay with them and stir them often.

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, chopped

6 slices firm white bread cut into small, uniform cubes

Melt butter and olive oil in a heavy frying pan. Add garlic; stir in bread cubes. Brown croutons over very low heat, stirring often, until they are crisp and golden.