Gazpacho Andaluz

gazpacho

When I was 20 and not very worldly, I went to Seville, Spain, for my second year of university. I had never left Canada except to cut across the New England states with my family to spend summers with relatives in Nova Scotia, so going to Europe for a school term was a huge deal. I remember making a hot pink mini-dress to wear on the flight over, but not being so good at fine finishes, had tacked up the hem with straight pins that stuck into my legs the whole way over. I also remember waiting anxiously in the blazing sun at Seville airport for whatever came next, afraid to take that first step into my new life. Somehow I made it to Calle Monte Carmelo in the Los Remedios section of the city, to the house of Don Miguel and Dona Mercedes, my home for the next nine months.

Ah, Sevilla la maravilla, that marvellous old Roman-Moorish city awash in beautiful pastel colours straddling the banks of the Quadalquivir River. Its most distinctive landmark, the huge cathedral in the centre of town with its bell tower, the Giralda, looks over a maze of narrow streets which make up the former Jewish quarter, the barrio Santa Cruz. The city was (and still is) famous for its flamenco and hand-painted plates, its bullfights, and its Semana Santa, the most important Holy Week in Spain, a time when teams of men, or penitents, carry religious floats on their shoulders in a slow procession through the streets.

Seville’s spring Feria, when Sevillanos dress up in their flamenco finery and ride around on horses, is also renowned. I attended classes at the University of Sevilla, a former tobacco factory, and learned to speak Spanish. I made friends and went on excursions through Andalucia, past groves of gnarled olive trees and through white-washed villages, and beyond, to Malaga, Cordoba, Salamanca, Avila, Barcelona and Madrid. I wrote long letters home.

I’ll never forget the food, not only the delicious meals cooked by Dona Mercedes, but also the bread and tapas and vino tinto served in bars, the churros (strips of donut) sold on the street, and the tortilla de patatas (potato omelette). I learned to love olive oil and sherry from nearby Jerez de la Frontera. I also loved the dulces (sweets), including the tortas de aciete (thin, crispy, sugar-coated pastries fried in olive oil). But most of all, I  remember there being nothing so refreshing on a hot day than gazpacho, that cold Andalucian soup of raw ripe tomatoes, bread, garlic, olive oil, salt and sherry vinegar.

This soup-salad has many variations; it can be chunky or smooth, red or green, traditional or modern. My favourite is this recipe, the only one I’ll ever need, from Saveur magazine. It’s so easy to put together: just throw juicy, field-ripened tomatoes and cucumber into a blender with garlic and the finest olive oil and sherry vinegar you can find (from Spain, naturally). Whizz it up, then force it through a sieve to make it silky smooth. Chill, then serve with a garnish of croutons and other raw vegetables. It will be so delicious, you’ll want to make it again right away, making the most of this splendid tomato season.

Gazpacho Andaluz
Ingredients
  • 1 slice country-style bread, about 1-inch thick, crusts removed
  • 2 small cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 2 pounds very ripe tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • ** Optional Garnishes **
  • ½ green pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • ½ cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 cup ½-inch croutons
  • ½ small white onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 small tomato, seeded and finely diced
  • Serves 4
Instructions
  1. Soak bread for ½ hour in a small bowl in water to cover. Squeeze out moisture with your hands.
  2. Puree bread, cucumbers, tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, and 1 cup water in a food processor or blender until very smooth.
  3. Push puree through a coarse sieve with the back of a wooden spoon. Gazpacho should be fairly thin. Season to taste with salt.
  4. Chill gazpacho in refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Adjust seasoning. Serve in individual glasses, or in soup bowls with garnishes on the side.
  • Serves: 4

 

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