A Great Summer Soup
Quenches a Summer Thirst
The Roman legions stationed in Iberia were fond of a soup that helped them stay on their feet in the hot, arid summers. Every legionnaire was issued a ration of a pound of bread each day, and if he had some left over and stale the next he would mash it along with olive oil, garlic, salt and vinegar to make a refreshing bowl of energy food.
The Romans went home when the Germanic tribes overran the western empire, but the Iberians, who later became the Spaniards and Portuguese, had by then adopted and adapted some of their ways. In Andalusia, one of those was that dish. They added summer vegetables to it, and after their conquest of the New World tomatoes, to make what is now called gazpacho, a liquid salad known the world over. It is famous as thirst quenching, refreshing, nourishing, replenishing as vitamins, minerals, calories and enzymes leach from you on a hot summer day. It can be served in bowls, or if made thinner mugs or glasses. Every sidewalk cafe in Andalusia offers it so you can stop at an open air table for a few minutes, renew your vigor, and go on about your business. Everyone has his own version. There are red ones, white ones, green ones, thick ones, thin ones, spicy ones, mild ones. Gazpacho is a great dish for experimentation. The only rules are to use fresh, ripe ingredients, and to use what you have that is local and in season.
In this weather, it's a good thing to have in the refrigerator here in America, too. Here is an old Andalusian recipe for it, a traditional and basic one built directly on the ancient Roman dish.
I made this one to have as a summer soup. You can thin it out enough to put it in a mug, carry it out onto the deck, and drink it to restore your electrolytes. You can even make it thinner yet, put it in a bottle, and take it to work with you for a great break snack or dieter's lunch.
Good garnishes are diced tomato, croutons, slices of cucumber, plain yoghurt, chopped bell pepper (which some people put into their gazpacho when they're making it), or for something special as shown below a few basil leaves just picked from your kitchen garden.
Ready to rock
- ½ pound stale bread, Herb bread is great here
- 2 Nice, ripe garden tomatoes
- 1 medium cucumber, English cukes are best, I think
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped or crushed
- 1 pinch cumin (if you want it)
- 1½ cups cool water
- 1 medium Spanish onion
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 2 Tbl red wine vinegar
- 2 tsp good salt, "Good" means no additives
Ready to eat
How to make it
- Tear your stale bread into chunks and soak it in water for ten minutes. Add just enough water to do the job. Too much will make a thin soup. Best to do that to it later if you want it that way.
- While the bread is soaking up the water, coarsely cut up the cucumber, tomatoes and onion. Peel the garlic. I just hit it with the flat of the knife, but you can chop it up if you like. Add all the rest of the ingredients.
- Put everything into your handy dandy food processor and let 'er rip. Pulse it until it's as smooth as you want it to be. I like some texture in it myself, but your mileage may vary. It's your gazpacho, so do it as you like.
- Taste it and correct the seasoning. Add water if you want it thinner. You're done! Put it in something refrigeratable and you've got the summer heat beat.
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