When we think of soup, our thoughts naturally meander to the luscious soups of Autumn using the vegetable garden’s bounty of squash, beans, tomatoes, peppers and a panoply of aromatic herbs. Bouquets of thyme, dill, sage and basil simmering in a hearty brew flows through your mind together with wafts of settling wood smoke in the air.
Right now it’s summer and we have to wait for autumn’s muse to awaken our curious senses of bubbling broth. But we don’t have to stop eating soup, because long hot summers mean cold soup is on the way.
One of the most famous summer potions is Gazpacho (gas-pah-cho). There are two versions of this Spanish delicacy: the country and the seacoast. The seacoast version is call pescados fritos (fried fish). The country version is from Southern Spain and is made with tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, garlic and week old bread softened with water. Then the ingredients are blended with olive oil, vinegar and ice water and served cold. Food historians say it originated as a soup when Spain was part of the Islamic world in the Middle Ages.
The Romance of Gazpacho is captured in its history and the many different intraregional versions, some of which contain almonds, and no tomatoes and peppers (tomatoes and peppers came to gazpacho after Columbus). Some food writers believe that a dish which has vinegar suggests Roman provenance, whose culinary culture popularized vinegar for taste as well as a food preservative.
The etymology of the word “gazpacho” is controversial. Some believe it is derived from the Mozarab word caspa, meaning "residue" or "fragments," an allusion to the small pieces of bread and vegetables in a gazpacho soup. On the other hand, it may be a pre-Roman Iberian word modified by the Arabic.
José Briz’ book on gazpacho, also suggests that the word derives from the Hebrew gazaz, meaning to break into pieces, referring to the bread base. Gazpacho was traditionally eaten by workers in the fields, whether they were vineyards, olive plantations, citrus groves, wheat fields or cork farms. Originally gazpacho was nothing but bread, water, and olive oil, all pounded in a large wooden bowl called a dornillo. It was poor people's food. Pizza has a similar humble beginning as it was also peasant food made from the left over dough by Italian cooks and topped with tomato sauce and any leftovers in the kitchen.
Here is recipe for Pacific Gazpacho from Cookbook for Entertaining, Sunset Books.
6 medium tomatoes
2 cups canned condensed beef broth (vegetable broth for vegetarian version)
½ teaspoon fresh basil
2 Tablespoons olive oil
½ cup finely diced sweet onion (Maui or Vidalia Onions are best)
1 large avocado, peeled, pitted and cubed
Thinly sliced onion rings
Peel tomatoes and cut in large pieces, saving the juice. Blend with the broth, basil, lemon or lime juice, olive oil, and onion. Gently stir in cubed avocado. Salt if needed. Chill
Ladle into cold soup bowls and top with avocado slices onion rings, 1 Tablespoon sour cream and crumbled crisp bacon and a few small ice cubes. Also you can serve with crispy bruschetta.
*For a delicately sweet and earthy flavored gazpacho add roasted, peeled red or yellow peppers and small jalapeno seeded into the blender.
Different parts of Spain have their own version of Gazpacho. In Seville and Segovia it’s thickened with bread crumbs; in Malaga mashed rice; in Cordoba corn flour. Authentic Spanish recipes demand the soup be refrigerated for 24 hours before being eaten so the vegetables can mingle with the aromatics. Hemmingway was enamored with Spanish food and this is his personal recipe.
Garlic 1-2 cloves (I prefer roasting the garlic before using)
2 stalks white celery, chopped finely
1 green pepper, chopped finely
1 small cucumber, sliced thinly
1 bunch scallion onions, chopped
Italian seeded and peeled plum tomatoes ( 2 lb. 3 oz can)
Spanish Sherry vinegar ½ cup
White bread (2 cups cubed for croutons
Butter to fry the croutons
Put the garlic in the bottom of a large bowl and crush, then put the slices of bread in the vinegar until the bread is thoroughly soaked and will absorb no more. Mash the bread into the garlic, adding a few teaspoons of olive oil to make a paste. Blend in 1 cup of the canned tomatoes mashing thoroughly.
Add the vegetables that have been coarsely chopped; the 4 tomatoes, celery, green pepper, scallions, and the cucumber. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir Add 1 quart of ice water, stir, add 2 more cups of the canned tomatoes, stir again and taste. There should be definite tomato flavor. Add more tomato and water to taste. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The next day your soup will have matured to a sharp and exciting flavor.
The next day fry the bread croutons in butter and serve cold in a side dish with the Gazpacho. Give your soup a final taste to see if you need more vegetables or water. Serve in soup plates with 1 or 2 ice cubes in each dish. The croutons are sprinkled on top.
Chilled Avocado Soup
This recipe is from The French Laundry Restaurant in Yountville, CA by Chef Sally Schmitt
4 ripe avocados, peeled
¼ cup lime juice
1 cup chicken stock (I have substituted vegetable stock and it’s fine)
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup light cream
½ cup white onion, minced finely
Fresh ground black pepper
Chives for garnish
Mash avocados; add lime juice, then the other ingredients. Whisk until smooth, then to consistency of thick cream using extra stock or milk if needed. Add black pepper to taste. Chill. Garnish each bowl with chopped chives, and if you can a lovely chive blossom.
Dessert cold soup
This dessert soup blends spicy and sweet.
Cantaloupe and Coconut Milk Dessert Soup
3 cups Cantaloupe, diced
1 + 1/2 cup Coconut Milk
2 tablespoons Honey
1 Lime, juiced*
2 – 3 Fresh Basil leaves,chopped
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Ginger
Pinch of salt
Whip Cream, for serving
In a blender puree everything except the whip cream. Taste and adjust if needed by adding more honey, cantaloupe or coconut milk. Chill well. Serve with whip cream.
Fresh or frozen berries make excellent cold dessert soups.
2 (10 oz.) pkg. frozen strawberries, or raspberries, or blackberries (any berries can be used)
Fresh berries can be used as well.
3/4 c. dry red wine
1/3 c. powdered sugar
2 tbsp. Cointreau or Grand Marnier
1 c. sour cream or yogurt
Thaw fruit and puree. If using raspberries, mash through sieve to remove seeds.
Combine all ingredients, except whipped cream and banana, and blend smooth. Chill overnight.
Garnish with dollop of whipped cream and/or thin slices of banana.
Whether drowning your senses in an exotic, Iberian Gazpacho or lifting your spirits with an elegant dessert, soups in the Summer can be as tantalizing and as complex as the simmering delights of Fall and Winter.
Feast for all Seasons, by Roy Andries de Groot, Random House
South Beach Diet Cookbook, by Arthur Agatston, Rodale Publishers
California Wine Country Cooking, By Kathleen DeVanna Fish, Bon Vivant Press