To most people, the word gazpacho conjures up the image of a bright-red, chilled tomato soup-salad that’s as thirst quenching as the summer day is long and hot, an elegant and delicate dish hailing from the mother country itself—Spain. But what if I told you the original gazpacho was none of this? The original wasn’t red…it was white. Tomatoes weren’t even part of the dish until long after Christopher Columbus sailed to South America, found Aztec descendants cultivating them, as they had been doing for some 1,000 years, and took their seeds back to the Old World with him. And far from being sophisticated fare gazpacho was actually poor people food.
The earliest gazpachos were made by peasants and campesinos with nothing more than stale bread, water, garlic, vinegar and olive oil pounded together in a rustic wooden mortar—the humble ingredients and tools they had at their disposal. It was, in essence, a bread soup, and a method of extracting the last bit of nutritional value from an old ingredient about lose its life—the bread. While food historians debate the origins of the dish (some believe it was the Romans who brought it to Spain, others think it was the Arabs, who ruled the country for 700 years) it’s clear that it wasn’t until the 19th century that the “exotic” tomatoes from the New World finally had become popular in Spain, and the modern gazpacho was born.
Today, we’re bringing you recipes for both: the white gazpacho (or as it’s called in Spain, ajo blanco), which is made with bread, ground almonds and green grapes, and the classic tomato-based gazpacho, a delicious melange not possible without New World ingredients like tomatoes and peppers.
White gazpacho (ajo blanco) recipe
3 1-inch thick slices crusty white bread
1 cup whole blanched almonds, finely ground
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup chilled bottled water
1/3 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 T sherry vinegar
16 green grapes, for garnish
Toasted almond slivers, for garnish
1. Place the bread in a large bowl. Add cold water to cover. Let it soak for about 5 minutes. Squeeze the water out of the bread. Place the crumbled bread into a blender.
2. Add the almonds, garlic, sea salt and bottled water to the blender and puree until smooth. With the blender running, slowly pour in the olive oil through the feed tube until emulsified. Start with 1/3 cup, and add the if the puree is too thick.
3. Place the puree in a bowl and whisk in the vinegar. If still too thick, add a little more bottled water. Season with more salt if necessary. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
4. To serve, place four grapes in a bowl and pour the fully chilled gazpacho over them. Garnish with almond slivers. Makes 4 servings.
(Photo & Recipe/Nina Terrero)
Tomato Gazpacho Recipe
4 slices of thick, crusty bread with the crusts removed (Portugese or Italian bread work well)
1 cup water
2 pounds tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 green peppers, coarsely chopped
1 medium cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 medium Spanish onion, coarsely chopped
5 large cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 cup mild Spanish extra virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 1/2 cups cold water
Optional: Finely chopped tomato, green pepper, cucumber, hard-boiled egg, garlic croutons (recipe below) and/or scallions.
1. Soak bread in water and squeeze dry; set aside. Place tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, onion, garlic, bread and water in a blender or food processor with olive oil and vinegars.
2. Blend until completely smooth and pass through a fine strainer in a bowl, using a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible from the mixture. Add salt to taste and chill before serving. Serve in bowls with toppings on the side to garnish to taste. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Garlic croutons recipe
6 slices of thick, crusty bread (Portugese or Italian bread work well here)
6 large garlic cloves, crushed (use the flat side of a knife to crush, or “smash” the garlic on a cutting board)
½ teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons Spanish olive oil
1.Cut bread into 1 inch cubes. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and coat the bottom of the pan with the olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté for about 45 seconds or until fragrant.
2. Add bread cubes to the pan and sprinkle with salt. Cook the bread cubes until golden brown, stirring as necessary to cook on all sides. Serve over gazpacho. Stored in an air-tight container, the croutons will keep fresh for a few days.