Grilled Vegetable Gazpacho, Tropical Fruit Gazpacho, Green Herb Gazpacho, Red Tomato Gazpacho, White Almond Gazpacho, Chunky Cherry Gazpacho, Smooth Gazpacho — will the Original Gazpacho please step forward and show some ID?
Hm, a passport of Spanish origin; the name reading “White Almond Gazpacho.” The case is closed. This Antonio Banderas of the cold soup world is, indeed, Gazpacho Verity.
Food historians and various web sites — such as the scholarly CliffordAWright.com — agree, and trace gazpacho’s antecedent to “… a soup during the time when Spain was part of the Islamic world in the Middle Ages, a soup the Spanish call an ajo blanco, which contained garlic, almonds, bread, olive oil, vinegar, and salt.”
No tomatoes? Perhaps you’ve always thought, as have I, that tomatoes were the backbone of this classic Spanish soup. But the fruit (tomatoes are a fruit) is a New World crop and did not find its way to Spain until the 16th century. It was during this era that Gazpacho Fusion-Confusion was born, and continues to this day.
In contemporary Spain, one savors tomato-based gazpacho enriched with raw and hard-cooked eggs, slivers of Serrano ham and often seafood. And of course the original version, the traditional ajo blanco, is still popular and is served sweetened with grapes or melon.
Check the Internet — more recipes for gazpacho have been penned than Spain has cathedrals. The only common denominator I’ve found is the soup is always served chilled.
But not everyone is enamored with this venerable Andalusian classic. I have friends who make no apologies when sharing their contempt of my favorite summer cooler.
Cold tomato soup? Yeach!
And then there are the naysayers who deride it as the “unmeal” that leaves them feeling “unfed.” If the soup is too thick, they complain it’s like eating salsa without the chips. Too thin, and they wonder why the waiter forgot the vodka, and put their Bloody Mary in a bowl. And so it goes on… yadda, yadda, yadda.
I bristle at these comments. I’ve never met a gazpacho I didn’t like, especially in the summer. I’ve made gazpachos using stale bread soaked in beer, which lends a marvelous tang and viscosity. Gazpachos made with tangy tomatillas, fiery jalapenos and cilantro hits just the right note on a summer day, especially delicious when paired with quesadillas.
This Shrimp and Avocado Gazpacho is a recipe to prepare when summer lays thick and heavy on the vine, when the sun blazes hot, and humidity has zapped your energy. Aside from the shrimp, it’s a no-cook recipe — light and carefree — a recipe without control needs; a recipe of non-commitment.
It’s a soup for those of us too laid-back to hassle with a blender, much less a sieve. In short, this is a lazy girl’s gazpacho. (If you’d prefer adding a bit more “oomph”, stir sour cream and croutons into the brew — freshly made, using artisan bread with olives, if possible.)
We Americans like snagging European imports and crafting them to suit our palates; I am no exception. So if Starbucks can call those whipped cream concoctions “lattes” and Chef Boyardee has artistic license to fill cans with “spaghetti,” by golly, I can christen this recipe “gazpacho” without apology.
After all, Wikipedia says gazpacho is just a cold Spanish tomato-based raw vegetable soup. If only it were that simple.