This cold soup is incredibly refreshing on a blazing hot day, like a liquid salad, but the defining ingredient is bread, which makes it creamy and filling. The gazpacho we’re familiar with comes from the Andalusian region of Spain, where the inland cities of Seville and Cordoba have summers as scorching and dry as any in New Mexico. The tomatoes and peppers are a relatively recent addition, only becoming widely accepted a few centuries after Columbus introduced them. Gazpacho traces its roots even further back, to an ancient Arab soup brought to Spain by the Moors or perhaps the Romans, which contained just garlic, almonds, bread, olive oil and salt. This version uses local chile for a kick. Italian frying peppers, found later in the summer at many New Mexico farmers’ markets, add a sweeter, more concentrated flavor than bell peppers. Use the ripest, most intensely flavorful tomatoes, excellent olive oil and aged sherry vinegar to make it truly great. It’s nice to make the gazpacho the night before, allowing the flavors to mingle.
1 C. good white bread (ideally, a week old), torn into pieces
1/2 C. water
1 lb. 8 oz. ripe tomatoes
1 medium red bell pepper or 2 Italian frying peppers
1 cucumber, peeled
3 T. chopped red onion
1 garlic clove, crushed or finely minced
1/2 t. salt
2-3 T. chopped green chile
1/4 C. fragrant extra virgin olive oil
2 T. aged sherry vinegar
Parsley, cress, sliced basil or edible flowers for garnish.
Toss the bread with the water and soak 10 minutes. Using your hands take the bread from the liquid and squeeze out excess water, discard the liquid and set bread aside. Seed and coarsely chop the tomatoes, peppers and cucumber. In a large bowl, mix the chopped vegetables thoroughly with the bread, onion, garlic, salt and chile. Puree all in a blender or food processor until very smooth, working in batches if necessary. Add the olive oil slowly while blending, then stir in the vinegar. Adjust the amount of salt and vinegar as desired. Chill thoroughly, about 2 hours or overnight and pack in a glass wide-mouthed juice or a wine bottle on ice. Serves 4 to 6.