Gazpacho is a dish best served cold
Top secret recipe inside! Also featuring a backstory starring Gwyneth Paltrow.
Way back in 2011, when Goop was merely a bougie lifestyle newsletter instead of the wellness monolith it is today, Gwyneth Paltrow published her first cookbook. Titled My Father’s Daughter, it was widely criticized for being pompous and out-of-touch. At the time, no one was cooking with agave, and Vegenaise and miso were “weird” ingredients you had to track down at the crunchy, hippie organic shops.1
There’s a lot of room for criticism of our pal GP (including her undeniable negative contribution to diet culture and promotion of questionable medical practices), but one thing you can’t criticize her of is being fake. So many celebrities and influencers tend to play up the idea that they’re normal people—Stars! They’re just like us!—and that they’ve gotten to where they are in life through a combination of luck and hard work. Not Gwyneth. Maybe she says some things that are out of touch, but she’s never denied that she’s lived a privileged life. As someone who came from a small town, at the time I admired her in the sense of wanting her aspirational lifestyle, but also due to her staying true to her convictions (even when she was being made fun of by half of the internet). In rural Appalachia, there’s this idea of “not getting above your raising” and being true to yourself and your upbringing. Somehow Gwyneth embodied this, all while also being the total antithesis of the typical small-town experience.2
I, of course, bought her cookbook immediately.
I worked my way through the book (many recipes are actually quite good and not as pretentious as the reviews would have you to believe), eventually deciding to try her recipe for gazpacho. Gwyneth explains that she had her first bowl of gazpacho in Spain when she was fifteen, but I somehow managed to escape it when I studied abroad myself in Valencia as a teenager (this was likely because I was too busy eating döner kebabs in place of tuna bocadillos). As a result, GP’s recipe was my first experience with gazpacho, and honestly? I hated it. About 13 years later when I finally made it back to Spain and tried authentic gazpacho3, I… still hated it. It was too acidic, too tomato-y, and who eats cold soup anyway? Paso.4
For those of you unfamiliar with gazpacho, it’s a cold puréed soup consisting of tomato, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, water, salt, and various vegetables including cucumber, onion, and green pepper. Some versions of gazpacho also have chunks of stale bread, which are soaked in water and blended along with the other ingredients. Since the soup is raw and served cold it’s usually eaten in the summer months, but you can find it in some restaurants in Spain year-round.
While hoy en día5 a lot of gazpacho recipes leave out the bread component, traditionally pan6 was the star ingredient. Gazpacho was a way to use up old bread: by using a mortar and pestle to grind the bread with garlic, olive oil, vinegar, salt, and water, the stale chunks were transformed into a tasty purée and served as a soup. What surprised me in my research was that gazpacho didn’t originally have tomato as an ingredient; this is because people living on the Iberian Peninsula were making the purée back in the 8th century, long before Columbus set sail for the New World and brought tomatoes to Spain to be cultivated for the first time. In fact, there is no evidence of tomatoes in gazpacho until the beginning of the 19th century, when the dish changed from a food eaten by the lower classes and landed on the table of the bourgeoisie. This was when small trozos7 of vegetables began to be added to the purée, eventually evolving into the tomato-based soup that it is today.8
Gazpacho is often claimed to have its origins in Andalucía, although now it is eaten all over. Summers are scorching in Southern Spain, and the cold soup is a welcome, nourishing refreshment. Historically, workers in vineyards and olive groves would eat gazpacho to keep themselves cool and energized for a long day in the sun.
As I mentioned above, I was not a fan of gazpacho at first. However, as a former picky eater, I also know that I sometimes have to try a food several times in order to appreciate it (see also: pickles and olives, both pictured above in a trifecta of foods I used to dislike). As my tastebuds adapted to Spanish flavors and I tried more and more gazpacho, I began to like it over time. If you don’t like sharp, acidic flavors, you may find yourself in the same boat. Don’t be afraid to try different versions; if you’re making it at home you may need to adjust the amount of salt and vinegar.9
Today, there are many variedades10 of gazpacho that use fruits other than tomatoes as their base ingredient. Watermelon and strawberry are the most popular variations I’ve come across, but last year at a wedding I had a cherry gazpacho that was riquísimo.11
David and I opt for the more typical tomato base, and we stick to making gazpacho in the summer months. It’s funny to me that I used to dislike it so much, considering that now every year by May I’ve started to ask David, “Is it gazpacho season yet?”. The key to a good gazpacho is definitely in the tomatoes—they need to be ripe, but not mushy. Out-of-season tomatoes will leave you with a bland, watery soup.
I’m sharing our top secret house recipe for gazpacho below.12 The recipe makes a lot, since we like to make a big batch and eat it throughout the week; feel free to scale it to fit your needs.
Yield: Around 2 liters, or 6-8 servings
Blender (high-speed if you have it, if not a regular will do)
Large fine mesh colander (optional)
1.2 kg ripe tomatoes, cored and halved or quartered
1/4 onion, cut into wedges (sweet or yellow both work here)
1 green Italian pepper, seeded and roughly chopped (about 100g)
2 small cucumbers, peeled and roughly chopped (about 150g total)
1 large clove garlic, peeled, halved, and germ removed
15 ml red wine vinegar
400 ml water
2 large pinches of salt
70g extra virgin olive oil
Optional: extra pepper, cucumber, onion, and tomato, all finely chopped for serving
Note: since this recipe makes a lot, we have to blend everything in two batches. I’ve written the recipe to accommodate for this, but if you halve the recipe, you can probably do everything in one batch.
Add half of all ingredients except olive oil to the blender and mix for 1-2 minutes. It doesn’t need to be very smooth yet, we’re just doing a quick blend.
Add half of the olive oil and blend on high speed for 3-4 minutes, or until smooth.
Pour this batch of gazpacho into large bowl and repeat first two steps with the remaining ingredients.
Combine both batches of gazpacho in the bowl and adjust salt to taste.
If you want your gazpacho extra-smooth, use the colander to strain the purée, tossing the leftover tomato/vegetable pulp that stays behind.
Chill before serving. If you want to speed up this process, you can add single serve portions to the freezer, just keep an eye on them!
To serve, pour into a bowl or glass (I prefer to eat it out of a bowl with a spoon, but David often drinks it from a glass, and you’ll find it served both ways at restaurants).
If using, sprinkle the finely chopped vegetables on top as garnish.
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As the Spanish say, de gazpacho no hay empacho!13 Please let me know if you end up trying the recipe, and feel free to email or comment below with any questions.
Have you ever had gazpacho, and if so, are you a fan? Do you like cold soups, or are you more of a hot soup aficionado? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
See you Friday!
On miso being “weird”: There’s definitely some things to unpack about food from other cultures being regarded as strange, but that’s a topic for another newsletter.
On Gwyneth’s paradoxical appeal: Not to get political, but I wonder if this is why Trump was/is so successful in rural parts of the US.
On GP’s gazpacho: It’s actually quite similar to traditional gazpacho recipes, so my disapproval was not Gwyneth’s fault.
Paso: I’ll pass.
Hoy en día: In today’s world
On vinegar and taste preferences: I never liked vinegar as a child, which probably influenced my dislike of gazpacho. On the other hand my dad, who loves vinegar, was a gazpacho fan from first sip.
Riquísimo: Extremely delicious
On our house recipe: Okay, it’s actually not top secret, but it is our first time sharing our own specific ratio of ingredients.
De gazpacho, no hay empacho: You can never have too much of a good thing.