This is the season of the tomato avalanche. At markets, grocery stores and in your neighbor's backyard, tomatoes are coming up like nobody's business. Al asked Chef Jerry Pellegrino, 'what are you supposed to do with a paper bag containing 20 red ripe tomatoes?' His answer: make gazpacho.
Gazpacho is an ancient idea that started in Spain as a way to use up stale bread. In old Spain, they made a soup out of stale bread, olive oil, garlic, salt and vinegar. With the introduction of tomatoes to Spain, a new and pivotal ingredient was added.
Today gazpacho is a cold soup made of processed raw vegetables. That stale bread is optional, but tomatoes are not. The question of whether to go with raw or cooked vegetables is still debated, but invariably the soup will be served cold.
One question that has never been resolved with whether the gazpacho should be chunky or smooth, and if smooth, how smooth? A chunky texture will give you bites that feature individual flavors. The smooth variety creates a mélange of flavors that improves with a day's delay.
Here is Jerry's approved recipe for gazpacho his way.
About 2 pounds ripe red tomatoes, cored and roughly cut into chunks
1 Italian frying (cubanelle) pepper or another long, light green pepper, such as Anaheim, cored, seeded and roughly cut into chunks
1 cucumber, about 8 inches long, peeled and roughly cut into chunks
1 small mild onion (white or red), peeled and roughly cut into chunks
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar, more to taste
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, more to taste, plus more for drizzling
Combine tomatoes, pepper, cucumber, onion and garlic in a blender or, if using a hand blender, in a deep bowl. (If necessary, work in batches.) Blend at high speed until very smooth, at least 2 minutes, pausing occasionally to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.
With the motor running, add the vinegar and 2 teaspoons salt. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil. The mixture will turn bright orange or dark pink and become smooth and emulsified, like a salad dressing. If it still seems watery, drizzle in more olive oil until texture is creamy.
Strain the mixture through a strainer or a food mill, pushing all the liquid through with a spatula or the back of a ladle. Discard the solids. Transfer to a large pitcher (preferably glass) and chill until very cold, at least 6 hours or overnight.
Before serving, adjust the seasonings with salt and vinegar. If soup is very thick, stir in a few tablespoons ice water. Serve in chilled bowls with a few drops of olive oil on top.