To call gazpacho a liquid salad is unkind, but the expression does sum up the appeal of this chilled Spanish soup. Like any salad, prime ingredients – in this case, fresh ripe tomatoes, red bell pepper, and cucumber – show at their best but it takes time to peel, seed, and chop them, an essential preparation when they are fresh. Canned tomatoes are a time-saving temptation – I leave it to you. Careful seasoning of the soup with olive oil, red wine vinegar, and some fruity red wine is crucial. Above all, gazpacho is refreshing in summer heat, so be sure it is thoroughly chilled and add an ice cube to each bowl just before serving.
3 slices of white bread, diced with crusts
2 cups/500 ml cold water
2 lb/900 g very ripe large tomatoes, more to your taste
2 red bell pepper
2 medium cucumbers
2 garlic cloves, more to your taste
½ cup/125 ml olive oil
1 cup/250 ml red wine
½ cup/125 ml red wine vinegar, more to your taste
Pinch of sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Ice cubes, for serving
1. Put the bread in a bowl, pour over the cold water, and leave to soak until the bread is soft.
2. Next, prepare the vegetables for puréeing in the food processor. The aim here is to remove as many cores, seeds, and skins as possible in a short time – texture of the soup is still going to be slightly rough. Very healthy!
3. With the point of a knife, scoop out and discard the cores from the tomatoes. Cut the fruits across in half, squeeze out the seeds, and cut the flesh into large chunks. Halve the peppers, snap out the cores, and discard the seeds. Cut the flesh into quarters. Peel the cucumber with a vegetable peeler, keeping 8 thin strips of peel for decoration. Cut it in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a teaspoon. Cut the cucumber into chunks. With the flat of the knife, lightly crush the garlic cloves to loosen and discard the skin.
4. Add about a third of the vegetables to the food processor and purée them as smoothly as possible. Pour this vegetable purée into a large bowl; continue puréeing the remaining vegetables.
5. Squeeze the soaked bread in your hands to remove the excess water and put the bread with a cup or two of the vegetable purée in the processor with the olive oil. Work the bread to a purée and add to the bowl of vegetables. Stir in the wine, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Taste for seasoning: the amount needed varies very much with the vegetables. Cover and chill the gazpacho for at least 2 hours.
6. Stir the gazpacho: it should be quite thick, but add a little more water if it seems too heavy. Taste it again, adding more seasoning and possibly more vinegar to pick up the fresh flavor. Spoon into serving bowls, add an ice cube, and top each bowl with one of the strips of cucumber peel, tied in a knot. Gazpacho can be stored in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to 24 hours.