My Recipes|Luke Chavez
August 31, 2023
Late summer is a productive time in the garden. There are moments when it feels like keeping up with the harvest is impossible, with mountains of summer bounty taking up valuable counter space in the kitchen. This week, we had beautiful tomatoes, cucumbers, and banana peppers that were all ready to be picked which inspired an exploration of classic recipes for Spanish gazpacho. Silky and vibrantly colored, this refreshing chilled soup is a wonderful way to celebrate the flavors of the season. The addition of cheese croutons as a garnish provided a satisfying crunch.
2 pounds ripe tomatoes
1 large cucumber
1 to 2 long mild peppers, such as cubanelle, banana, or Anaheim
1 jalapeno or serrano pepper, (optional)
1 small red onion
2 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar, or red wine vinegar, plus more
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more
2 to 3 thick slices stale crusty bread
1 to 2 ounces Manchego cheese, finely grated (see notes)
Pinch of sweet paprika
Fresh herbs such as basil, parsley, and chives, finely chopped
Core the tomatoes and roughly chop into large chunks. Place tomatoes and all their juices into a large bowl. Peel the cucumber and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds, then chop into chunks. Core and seed the peppers and roughly chop. Peel the onion and quarter. Place all chopped vegetables and the garlic cloves into the bowl with the tomatoes. Toss to evenly mix.
Add the chopped vegetables into the pitcher of a blender, either all at once or working in batches if needed. Blend at high speed for a few minutes until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula a few times. While the blender motor is running, add the vinegar and season with a generous pinch of salt. Next, turn the speed down to medium and slowly pour the olive oil in, allowing it to emulsify into the tomato mixture. As the oil emulsifies into the soup the color will turn from bright red to a silky orange or pink. If the mixture seems too watery continue to add a little more olive oil to get a smooth, creamy texture. Stop the motor and taste for seasoning, adding more salt of vinegar as needed.
Strain the gazpacho through a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl, pushing the liquids out with a rubber spatula. This will take some time but is worth the effort. Discard the solids and transfer the soup to a large pitcher. Chill gazpacho in the refrigerator until very cold, for at least 6 hours or overnight.
While the soup is chilling make your croutons. Preheat the oven to 375. Tear or roughly cut the bread into 1-inch cubes then place in a mixing bowl and drizzle with 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with a pinch of salt and paprika. Toss bread to evenly coat in the oil and spices. Spread the bread out on a foil or parchment lined baking sheet and set on the top rack of hot oven. Bake for about 10 minutes then toss the croutons and rotate the pan. Bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the croutons are lightly golden and crispy. Next, sprinkle the tops of each crouton with a clump of the grated cheese and return pan to the oven. Bake until cheese is golden and melty. Keep an eye on them to prevent burning. Remove pan and allow croutons to cool.
Before serving taste the soup one last time and adjust the seasoning if needed. To serve, pour gazpacho into chilled bowls or decorative glasses. Garnish with some chopped herbs and place a few croutons centered on top. Also, a small drizzle of olive oil to finish is lovely. If it is a particularly hot day, serve with a few ice cubes in the bowl.
Use the best, juiciest tomatoes you can find when they are in season. Heirloom varieties, cherry tomatoes, or plump Romas are all great options when available.
Manchego cheese is a delightful sheep's milk cheese from the La Mancha region of Spain. It has a distinct nutty flavor with a firm texture. It can often be found in grocery stores with larger imported cheese selections. If you cannot find Manchego you can substitute with Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano, or even an extra sharp, aged white cheddar.