Today, the Spanish-style soup we call gazpacho most nearly resembles a sort of chunky liquid salad, with lots of fresh, uncooked vegetables suspended in a broth of puréed tomatoes or tomato juice and chicken stock. In the summer when all of the vegetables are at their finest, this simple, modern soup is full of refreshing good flavor. It is a distant cousin, however, of this peasant fare as it first developed. Farther still from the original are the more complex contemporary versions that include everything from clam juice, lobster, and shrimp and to raisins, walnuts, mangos, and melon. Many chefs adopt the word to describe any uncooked, chilled soup. It began as another thing entirely, and to forget its genesis is to loose the subtle elements which make today's gazpacho an evocatively refreshing summer meal.
The basic peasant staples of bread, garlic, olive oil, and vinegar evolved in several ways that remain with us today. In Italy, we find both bread salad and bread soup, historical cousins to the Andalusian soup featuring the same ingredients, the many variations of which came to be called gazpacho. Although the exact origin of the word is unknown, most sources suggest that it refers to fragments, crumbs, remnants of food—primarily, stale bread and breadcrumbs—that were combined with vinegar, water, oil, garlic, and other seasonings and served at room temperature. Today, gazpacho remains true to its spiritual, if not culinary, roots in that it is one of the finest uses for too many ripe vegetables that might otherwise go to waste. And the original ingredients, especially vinegar, olive oil and garlic, remain essential to a successful gazpacho.
This full-bodied version of contemporary gazpacho is best at the peak of harvest, when all of the vegetables are dazzlingly ripe. And on a hot day, there is nothing more refreshing.
Combine all of the vegetables in a large bowl. Add the stock, lemon juice and vinegar and stir very briefly. Stir in the fresh herbs and season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill the soup for at least one hour before serving. Remove from the refrigerator, stir, let rest for 15 minutes and then pour the olive oil over the soup and serve.
Certain varieties of golden tomatoes have a rich, velvety texture; this soup highlights that luscious quality.
Peel the tomatoes and gently remove their seeds. Chop the tomato flesh very finely or pass it through a food mill (do not purée in a blender or processor) and place it in a large bowl. Stir in the stock, onion, garlic and lime juice. Taste the soup and season with salt and pepper. Fold in the avocado and chill the soup for at least one hour. Remove the soup from the refrigerator, ladle into soup bowls, and top each serving with a generous tablespoon of olive oil and a sprinkling of chives.
Copyright 1996 by Michele Anna Jordan, author of The Good Cook's Book of Tomatoes. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.
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