Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Classic Gazpacho

Happy Summer!

Sorry for the long absence, but I have officially moved and am all settled in. And now that I'm comfortable in my new kitchen, it's time for some cool summer dishes. I've been craving cold salads and soups, anything with tons of fresh vegetables and grains. Hence, the creation of a classic gazpacho.

Though we traditionally see gazpacho as a Spanish dish, its roots are Arab in origin, arriving in Spain with the Moors. Once in Spain, it became a staple part of Andalusian cuisine. The original Moorish dish was very different from what we call gazpacho today, comprising mainly of bread, water, olive oil, and garlic. It is supposed that vinegar was introduced to the mix by the Romans, and tomato was not added until the dish spread through the rest of Europe in the mid-thirteenth century. It gained popularity during the summer months, especially with farmers and field hands, who could make the soup with available ingredients and used it to cool off in the hot weather.

Today, gazpacho is widely consumed in Spain, Portugal, and parts of Latin America. It is gaining a presence in other parts of the world, where many modern variations are created including such ingredients as watermelon, grapes, vegetable stock, and seafood. In fact, the term "gazpacho" has become a generic term for almost any cold soup.

Due to its versatility, this dish is beyond simple to veganize. In fact, many recipes are vegan already, and need no alteration. I recommend using this recipe as a base and letting your creative side run wild. You can eyeball the measurements here, and adjust the ingredients to taste. I didn't use a measuring device or a recipe when I made this. I just put in what I thought would be nice, and I wound up with a filling, chilly, and tangy soup. Have fun with it!

2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 large ripe tomato, diced
1/2 medium red onion, diced
1/2 medium cucumber, diced
3 scallions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 avocados, diced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 to 1 tsp chili powder
juice of 2 limes
1/4 cup vegetable broth
4 cups tomato juice
salt and pepper to taste

Ready? Easiest preparation ever: combine all vegetables in a bowl or pitcher. Cover with lime juice, tomato juice, and vegetable broth. Finally, add salt, pepper, and chili powder. Mix gently. If your liquids are cold, you may serve immediately, but this soup does well with at least an hour of chilling time in the fridge.

I served it with some sprouts on top, and a sprig of cilantro.

Just a note on my choice of veggies: I am not the biggest fan of raw bell peppers. Traditionally, you'd have at least one or two of those puppies in here. I omitted them, obviously. Also, avocado is not the most traditional ingredient in the mix, but I think it adds a lot of body and substance to the soup. Makes it feel more like a meal and less like a salady-snack. I was full after a serving!

Enjoy this cool soup outside on a hot sunny day! If you have an ice pack, it would make a great addition to a picnic. Just pack it up in a glass jar, keep it as chilly as possible, and serve in cups. Enjoy!