I can think of no other food more perfect for sweltering summer weather than gazpacho.
Gazpacho is a cold, tomato based soup that is said to have originated in southern Spain. While reportedly dating back as far as the Romans, it wasn’t until the discovery of tomatoes in the Americas and their accessibility in Spain became prevalent that the soup that we think of today.
Gazpacho is simple, refreshing, and perfect as a starter on days it is too hot to spend any length of time in the kitchen. To round it out into a light but satisfying meal, I like to add pre-cooked shrimp or a light white fish like cod to mine, although it can also be accompanies by any grilled protein of your choosing.
The great news about gazpacho is that it is so vegetable dense that half a cup provides a full serving of vegetables, so it is easy to get 3-4 servings of veg if you focus on this soup as the highlight of your meal!
Tomatoes are crucial, so choose vine-ripened if at all possible. In areas where tomatoes do not grow, I tend to favor hothouse tomatoes with the vine still attached, as these tend to have better flavor than romas or standard tomatoes in grocery stores.
Gazpacho is rich in antioxidants like lycopene and flavonoids, and is rich in vitamins C, K and potassium. Aside from supporting the immune system, higher intakes of Vitamin C are associated with reduced risk of heart disease, some cancers, type 2 diabetes, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and gout. Polyphenols also protect against cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma, and dampen the impacts of oxidative stress upon the body. One of the reasons I advocate a high produce diet is due to the abundance of evidence supporting reduced risk of chronic disease when eating loads of veggies! Clinically, I see improved mood and skin, reduced joint pain and sugar cravings, and balancing of weight and blood pressure with a high vegetable diet. Gazpacho is a quick and fantastic way to boost your produce consumption during hot summer months.
Traditional Southern Gazpacho
- 6-7 medium tomatoes vine-ripened if possible
- 1 green Cubanelle pepper (also called Italian pepper; sub a small green bell pepper if necessary)
- 1 cucumber
- ½ of a small white onion
- 1 medium clove garlic
- ¼ cup good quality extra virgin olive oil plus extra for drizzling
- a couple splashes of sherry vinegar (red wine vinegar can be substituted here)
- Salt to taste
Wash your veggies. Chop the tomatoes in rough pieces and put into a large bowl. Remove the seeds and stem of the green pepper, and chop it in pieces similar in size to that of the tomatoes.
Chop the cucumber in 4-8 pieces. Peel the onion and the garlic clove, and cut them in thirds or quarters.
Have time to prepare it in advance? Leave all these ingredients, plus the olive oil, the vinegar and salt marinating in a bowl for as long as you can (ideally overnight) before blending. Marrying the flavors in this way adds to the intensity upon serving instead of having to wait a day once blended.
Feel free to add garnishes to your gazpacho for textural interest! Common additions are croutons, diced pepper or cucumber, or fresh herbs like parsley, basil or cilantro. A drizzle of flavorful olive oil is great also