This Zesty Cold Soup Can Light Up Any Meal
Each year, harvest season brings loads of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables to market. One way to enjoy this short-lived summer pleasure is to add a healthy and delicious cold soup called gazpacho to the menu.
Thought to have originated in Spain, zesty, raw, and vibrant gazpacho helps cleanse the body before moving into autumn and winter— the cucumbers, red bell peppers, and tomatoes used in the soup are filled with fiber. Since gazpacho doesn’t require cooking, the raw veggies also retain their nutrients for optimal human health. Besides, any opportunity to avoid cooking lessens the energy burden on the planet.
It’s as simple as chopping, blending, chilling, and enjoying a refreshing and nourishing meal, and it’s enjoyed the world over using available produce and regional seasonings.
Moreover, if the flavors and options aren’t intriguing enough, researchers at the University of Barcelona, Spain, found that “the consumption of gazpacho, a Mediterranean vegetable-based cold soup rich in phytochemicals, is associated with lower blood pressure and/or reduced prevalence of hypertension in individuals at high cardiovascular risk.”
They surmised that the association between gazpacho intake and reduction of blood pressure is likely due to “synergy among several bioactive compounds present in the vegetable ingredients” of gazpacho.
Anyone who has eaten gazpacho knows that making a quick and delicious gazpacho and then slurping it up provides the healthful benefit of joy.
Get That Gazpacho Going
The following super simple gazpacho recipe can get anyone started on the road to loving this revitalizing and wholesome soup. It’s easy to experiment with variations using the veggies on hand or that are found at a farmers' market. Imagine adding zucchini, pattypan squash, bell peppers, chives, tomatillos, or radishes to this recipe. Chopping, dicing, shredding, or pureeing provides a dish with different textures, colors, and flavors.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
1 15½-ounce can chopped tomatoes
1 cup (236 ml) tomato juice
small cucumber, peeled (optional) and chopped
½ onion, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon vinegar
¼ to ½ teaspoon hot sauce (optional)
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
Mix the chopped tomatoes, tomato juice, cucumbers, onions, garlic, vinegar, hot sauce, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl.
Cover and chill one to two hours before serving.
Source: Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center, U. S. Department of Health & Human Services.
Fresh and Organic for Nutrient Density
For optimal health benefits, the ingredients should be fresh and organic, although subbing in canned tomatoes or dried herbs is fine as well.
Follow these basic proportions for four servings and experiment from there.
Proportionate Gazpacho Ingredients
3 tomatoes or 1 avocado (or maybe both)
2 or 3 cucumbers
1 red, green, or yellow bell pepper
1 serrano or spicier pepper (optional)
½ to 1 red, yellow, or white onion
2 to 4 cloves garlic
½ to ¾ cup fresh herbs (basil, parsley, dill, mint)
¼ cup oil
¼ cup vinegar
1 to 2 Tbsp lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions (version one)
Rough chop or dice everything. Toss in a bowl. Chill until ready to serve.
Instructions (version two)
Rough chop everything. Toss in a blender. Pour in a bowl. Chill until ready to serve.
Gazpacho can be thrown together in less than ten minutes using what is at hand, making the varieties virtually endless. Here are some common variations on the gazpacho theme.
Smoothie: Pulse the ingredients together in a blender and then strain out the seeds and skins. This provides a smooth consistency that can be served in a glass as a refreshing drink (get fancy with a salted rim, a stick of celery, or a mini umbrella stuck into an olive). It can also be served in a bowl with a crusty piece of buttered bread for dunking (another piece of bread will probably be needed to soak up all the goodness). The smoothie gazpacho is great for kids who may tend to avoid certain veggies.
Toppings are a fun addition to any gazpacho recipe for flavor and presentation. Examples include shredded cheese, croutons, nuts, seeds, chopped prosciutto, sardines, oysters, shrimp, hard boiled eggs, herbs, toasted edamame, fresh berries, or edible flowers.
Vinegar gives gazpacho tanginess. Switch it up with red or white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, balsamic vinegar, or apple cider vinegar. There are all sorts of raw organic vinegars available (pomegranate, grape, etc.) that can be used in gazpacho recipes to add extra taste, enzymes, and sparkle to the finished product. Lemon or lime juice can be used as a substitute for vinegar and will give gazpacho a sour zest and pick-me-up.
Oil: Most traditional gazpacho recipes call for ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil and/or a drizzle of oil on top before serving. Oil gives the soup flavor and texture. Try substituting avocado oil, grapeseed oil, or make an herb oil by infusing basil, cilantro, or oregano in a mild salad oil.
Green gazpacho might become a favorite. Simply omit the tomato and use avocado. It’s easy being green with cucumbers, green chiles, parsley, dill, mint (any favorite herbs will do). Add the proportionate amounts of onion, garlic, vinegar, or juice. This version is particularly “cool” to look at when blended.
Bitterness: If gazpacho is too bitter, stir in a spoonful of honey or sugar to balance it out. Salt can also balance bitterness.
Creamed soups are popular in winter, and cold gazpacho can also be creamy. Add ¼ to ½ cup of plain Greek yogurt to the chopped or blended variety for another level of tanginess and a beneficial dose of probiotics.
Fruit? Yes, fruit! Try an incredibly simple gazpacho with cantaloupe, tomatoes, cucumber, oil, basil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Blend it up and keep guests guessing on who came up with the amazing flavor blend. Or, get fancy with this Blueberry Gazpacho recipe designed by sous chef Josh Riach from Rabbit Hill Inn in Vermont.
Farmers Market Gazpacho
Garlic, cumin, and lemon juice give a zesty flavor to this cold, blended vegetable soup. Cilantro added at the end leaves a refreshing pop of flavor.
Makes 4 servings.
2 cucumbers (diced into ¼ inch pieces)
3 red bell peppers (seeded and diced into ¼ inch pieces)
3 green peppers (seeded and diced into ¼ inch pieces)
4 celery stalks (diced into ¼ inch pieces)
2 tomatoes (diced into ¼ inch pieces)
1 onion (medium, diced into ¼ inch pieces)
2 cups (473 ml) tomato juice, low-sodium
3 garlic cloves (fresh minced)
1 tablespoon cumin (ground)
1 cup (236 ml) cilantro (fresh chopped)
salt and pepper (to taste, optional)
Combine all ingredients except salt, pepper, and lemons in a bowl.
Remove 2 cups (473 ml) of the mixture and reserve.
Using a blender or food processor, puree the remaining mixture in the bowl.
Add 2 cups (473 ml) of reserved mixture to the pureed mixture.
Season with salt, pepper (optional) and the juice from the lemons.
Cover mixture and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
Serve cold, garnished with chopped cilantro.
For nutrition information, please visit Farmers Market Gazpacho at USDA’s MyPlate Kitchen.
*Julie Peterson is a freelance journalist based in the Midwest region of the US who has written hundreds of articles on natural approaches to health, environmental issues, and sustainable living.