Breakfast in Spain is unsubstantial, to my taste: a toasted and buttered bolillo (a large roll) and café con leche, Spain’s rich and tasty version of the latte. (I don’t like coffee or even lattes particularly, but I’ll take a café con leche any day.) Supper, as well, is fairly insubstantial: fried finger foods or a light platter of leftovers, served at 11 p.m., midnight, or even later, depending on the night-owlishness of your household.
Those are the foods my host mom, when I spent 6 months studying in Seville in college, served for breakfast and supper. She was garrulous and quick with a smile, matronly and recently-grandmotherly as well. Also in the household was my roommate and confidante, Laura; and host mom’s two daughters, one also with a husband and 3-year old daughter of her own. However, due to the 8 a.m. light breakfast and midnight greasy/not-filling supper, I was hungry quite often!
Lunch helped alleviate that. The biggest meal of the day in Mediterranean countries, usually eaten just before taking a siesta. My day went like so: get up and get breakfast around 8 a.m. Walk 45 minutes to classes, attend classes. Walk 45 minutes home around 2 p.m., famished, and have it alleviated by a home-cooked meal often followed by the biggest, juiciest, navel oranges you have ever eaten.
And after siesta, often it was another 45-minute walk back to the city center to hang out until the wee hours of the morning. Oh. That’s me in my feria dress. For Seville’s yearly post-Lent carnival and fair. Yeah. Dancing flamenco in that til 5 a.m. was kinda fun, actually.
Often host mom served fatty pork-based dishes that Laura and I picked at desultorially but tried to eat for sustenance. Occasionally she’d surprise us and make a Spanish or Andalusian classic, stunningly: a transcendent tortilla de patatas — transcendent precisely because the dish is basically eggs and potatoes — or gazpacho. Rich, smooth gazpacho as I like to imagine only the brash, proud Sevillanos would dare make it — with lots of fruity olive oil and soaked bread.
it’s tomato soup, served ice cold!
On the Simpsons, Lisa got laughed out of a party when she proudly presented her contribution, gazpacho. “It’s tomato soup, served ice-cold!”
Gazpacho is tomato soup, true, but in the sense that a Chevette is a car. It sounds really similar to a Corvette, yet they are very different machines.
People, well-intentioned people, absolutely mangle gazpacho. They make it without bread. They make it without olive oil. They put in a bunch of herbs and spices. They make it chunky. And when they serve a bowl filled with watery chunks of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, and ice cubes, people understandably balk.
They make it wrong. Wrong, I say!
gazpacho: the corvette of tomato soups
I’m biased due to my original gazpacho experiences. Inflexible, I am certain that gazpacho must contain, besides tomatoes, bread; it must contain olive oil, and a bit of garlic, cucumber, bell pepper, and onion; and it must be velvety smooth and thick.
I prepared this gazpacho for many reasons. One is to celebrate summer’s end. Though nearly October, the tomatoes still cling to the vines; they are the last ones. The green tomatoes will not ripen before a frost comes. Same goes for peppers; the onions are already pulled a month ago and cured; and cucumbers are long gone. Another reason to make gazpacho was to make use of the Nature’s Pride bread that I got from a coupon they sent me via Foodbuzz. This gazpacho recipe will be entered in a competition to be featured at the Foodbuzz blogging festival in November.
If it’s still warm where you are, or if there are still homegrown tomatoes available, try to make some gazpacho before the cold sets in for good. Having gazpacho today was a warm splash of summer.
This recipe was inspired by a Spanish-language post deep in some forums on Microsoft’s Spanish version of Bing. It looked close to what I remembered. I accidentally doubled the bread, but found it perfectly matched the gazpacho I knew and loved. For a less thick soup, use only 2 slices of stale bread. I also use less bell pepper and cucumber than most gazpacho recipes call for. Use your own taste buds and add ingredients to suit yourself. It’s easy to toss in a few more pieces of cucumber or green pepper to the food processor if the mixture seems to need them. Be careful with the garlic — a little raw garlic goes a looooong way. Also, I took the advice from Anya von Bremzen’s The New Spanish Table and used a food processor first to mix, then transferred it to a blender to make the gazpacho silky smooth.
time: 60 minutes, if you are slow like me
yield: 5 cups, or 1¼ liters
special equipment: food processor and/or blender
4 slices (7 ounces or 200 grams) of stale Nature’s Pride Country White or any other white bread, crusts removed
2–3 pounds tomatoes — I used bumpy, blemishy heirloom tomatoes that I have to cut away lots of, so I used 3 pounds
2 small cloves garlic or 1 large clove, peeled
½ small red or yellow onion
½ of a medium cucumber, peeled
1 small green bell pepper
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar — sherry vinegar is often the type called for, but this works fine
salt to taste
Note: You’ll be making half of the recipe at a time. The food processor won’t hold everything at once, if yours is a normal-sized food processor.
First, put on a pot of water to boil. You’ll be slipping the tomatoes in there to loosen their skins.
While waiting for the water to boil, tear the stale bread into small pieces and put them into a bowl. Fill with water and let soak.
Prepare the vegetables. Peel the garlic. Peel the onion and cut it into quarters. Peel the cucumber half and cut into chunks. Core and peel — yep, peel — the green pepper. It’s pretty easy to just hold it in your hand and peel; seems easier than an apple. If you’re sure your food processor and blender can pulverize the skin, skip peeling. Toss 1 clove of garlic, half the cucumber, and half the green pepper into the food processor’s bowl.
Once the water is boiling, drop the tomatoes in for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove the tomatoes and plunge into cold water. The peels will slip right off. Remove tomato peels, then core and seed the tomatoes. Add half the tomatoes to the food processor. Add half of the soaked bread, squeezing lightly before putting it in.
Whirl it all together until it appears smooth. Add ¼ cup of the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the vinegar. Process until all mixed. Transfer to a blender. Make the second half of the gazpacho by putting the rest of the seeded tomatoes, cucumber, onion, garlic (if using), green pepper and bread into the food processor. Mix, then add the remaining ¼ cup olive oil and 1 tablespoon vinegar. Taste and adjust vegetables/seasoning if desired.
Transfer the second half of the gazpacho to the blender. Whirl together until velvety smooth. Add salt to taste. Serve chilled. Garnish with finely diced cucumber; green, red, and yellow bell pepper; and quartered or halved cherry or grape tomatoes. Serve with crusty bread and a quality olive oil.