Gazpacho is a great way to get your soup, salad and bread all together in one cool slurp. It’s vibrant and refreshing, with a mixture of fresh summer vegetables, vinegar and some good olive oil. But like many true peasant foods, it has stale bread pureed into the mix, giving it a thick, creamy body. I like to pass my gazpacho through a fine-mesh sieve to make it smooth, then go back and add small chunks of vegetables for texture. Now that sweet corn is in season, I speckled it with fresh kernels, and used the spent corn cobs for a light stock.
Like I said, it’s peasant food, so use up what you’ve got. Boiling down corn cobs once stripped of the kernels is a thrifty way to add more flavor to a corn chowder, as I’ve observed. Here, the sweetness of that cooking water complements the tart and savory notes of fresh tomato, garlic and vinegar. Some juicy cucumbers and sweet onion mixed in, and that’s basically it for this great-tasting gazpacho (along with the bread).
You want ultra-fresh, perfectly ripe vegetables for the best flavor in this soup. And you can find them easily this time of the year. Don’t settle for anything less; and whatever you do, don’t opt for canned vegetables of any kind here. This recipe is all about the virtue of a few good ingredients, and summer’s vine-ripened tomatoes are what you’ll be tasting most. Look for ones that are red as can be; a few small squishy spots are fine, but no oozing or blackened patches (trim and cook those into a sauce instead). I was able to score a bag of seven ripe ones from the Greenmarket yesterday, for $4 total.
cucumber, corn and onion
The only thing that was cooked in this recipe was the corn; the cucumber was peeled and blended, along with chopped onion and a grated garlic clove. After the corn had boiled, most of the kernels also went into the blender, while the cobs continued to cook in water that would eventually be cooled and added to the soup. I used some very stale ends of a country white loaf, and would recommend going with a mild-tasting, crusty bread like this (such as a baguette, but not sourdough). Most gazpacho recipes call for red wine vinegar, but I tried out white wine vinegar instead this time, and it tasted great in the end.
stale bread soaks in corn cob cooking water
most of kernels are blended, while some are reserved for studding the soup
The most important thing you can do add flavor to your gazpacho aside from choosing the best ingredients is nothing at all, for a day. Let that gazpacho sit overnight in the refrigerator, covered, and it will have improved immensely by the next day. Play around with adjusting the seasoning afterward, if you want to at all by then. I thought I’d need to add more salt before chilling my batch, but put it off and ultimately never did.
A standard food mill is highly recommended for smoothing out the texture in this soup (the cucumber and corn bits can be annoyingly grainy). But if you don’t have one (I seem to have lost mine), you can try passing the soup through a fine-mesh sieve, strainer, or chinois with a spatula. It’s a little more time-consuming, but essentially does the same task as a food mill. Make sure you scrape off every bit of the puree from the outside of the mesh after it’s pressed through. You can discard big clumps that remain in the inside of the sieve, but try to pass through as much as you can. The pulp is all good stuff, it just needs to be ground a little finer. Finally, if you have a powerful commercial blender (such as Vitamix), skip that nonsense altogether and just give it a good whirl.
passing the puree through fine mesh
If you’re used to gazpachos that are chunky like salsa, try this type out for a change. It’s so satisfyingly smooth and delicious, and best of all, it doesn’t even require a spoon. Just slurp it down for instant refreshment.
Gazpacho with Sweet Corn & Cucumber
(makes about 1 1/2 quarts)
4 ripe medium-sized tomatoes, quartered
1/4 yellow onion, chopped
1 large cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 ear corn, stripped of husks
1 garlic clove, grated
piece of stale, crusty bread about the size of a large egg (such as baguette end pieces or the crusts of a country white loaf)
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons very good olive oil
1 fresh cayenne pepper, chopped, or 1/4 tsp ground cayenne (optional)
Bring a small pot of about 3-4 cups water to a boil. Break ear of corn into two pieces so that it can fit into the pot and boil uncovered until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Remove corn and let cool. Cut the kernels off of each piece, and reserve in a bowl. Return the stripped cobs to the water and boil uncovered for another 20 minutes. Remove the corn cobs. Soak the bread in the corn cooking water and let cool completely.
Once cool, break up the bread pieces a bit with your hands. Reserve a couple tablespoons of the corn kernels, a tomato wedge, and a piece of cucumber, trimmed of its seed pocket. Chop these ingredients and set aside to be added to the soup later on. Combine all the other ingredients including the soaked bread mixture and all its corn water in a food processor or blender and pulse several times until smooth as can be. Transfer mixture to a fine-mesh sieve or food mill with a large bowl beneath it. Make sure the sieve or strainer you’re using has fine mesh — not a colander with large holes. Press the mixture through with a spatula until almost all has passed through. Discard any very chunky or stubborn pieces that won’t go through and scrape the bottom of the mill or sieve with a spatula to make sure everything that has passed through goes into the bowl. Cover and chill the mixture for at least 8 hours, or overnight. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt, vinegar or olive oil if desired.
(for 1 1/2 quarts, or 6-8 servings)
4 ripe tomatoes (from a bag of 7 for $4): $2.29
1 cucumber (from a bag of 6 for $2): $0.34
1 ear corn: $0.50
1/4 onion: $0.25
1 garlic clove: $0.10
piece of stale bread: $0.30
2 tablespoons vinegar: $0.30
2 tablespoons good olive oil: $0.40
salt, pepper, optional cayenne: $0.10
Three brownie points: This is like a vegetable smoothie, but so much more inviting (and savory). As such, it’s mostly fresh vegetables, with a little corn and bread for carbohydrates. Vinegar adds brightness as well as digestive benefits, and the tomatoes provide lots of natural sweetness and Vitamin C. It’s easy to add too much salt to this recipe so try to go light on it until you taste the soup the next day, once the flavors have built.
Nine maple leaves: A great use of fresh, seasonal vegetables, and leftover odds and ends (also locally produced). This is a great way to use up leftover bread rather than tossing it out, and my bread was stale as a rock, just waiting for some purpose. The corn cobs also get a second life in making a stock, although they still become organic waste afterward. The only non-fresh, seasonal ingredients here were salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar.