Gazpacho, a raw summer vegetable soup from the sun-scorched south of Spain, is one of the simplest and most delicious summer dishes in my repertoire.
When I lived with my family in the south of France, we would buy cartons of ready-made gazpacho at our local country supermarket and my children loved it so much, they would take hearty glugs of the stuff every time they opened the fridge. After moving to the US, I had to figure out how to make it myself — here’s the result of my experimentations.
Gazpacho isn’t only delicious — it’s also been shown to boost vitamin C levels and lower oxidative stress and inflammation, all of which are associated with a lower risk of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In one study, gazpacho consumption was linked to lower blood pressure and reduced hypertension in people at high cardiovascular risk. Researchers cited two reasons: For one, gazpacho is made from raw ingredients at peak ripeness and nutritiousness. Moreover, the combination of a large variety of plant foods with highly diverse nutrient profiles increases the scope for “nutrient synergy” whereby one nutrient reinforces another, resulting in a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
I’ve made a few tweaks to the traditional gazpacho recipe:
- replacing raw green peppers (which give me acid reflux and make the dish taste a little bitter) with roasted red peppers,
- replacing white bread (traditionally used as a thickener but providing precious little nutrition) with avocado (which adds an unctuous creaminess, fiber potassium and many other nutrients), and
- adding protein in the form of garlicky-fried shrimp, thus making this a complete dish you can serve for lunch or dinner.
This soup is a cinch to make, so why not pretend you’re a Spaniard and drink a glass of gazpacho every day this summer? Make sure all your ingredients – tomato juice, peppers, cucumber, onion – are well chilled so the soup is nice and cold as soon as you’ve finished making it. I
f you don’t have a blender, you can make a chunky gazpacho by finely cubing all the ingredients (fruit-salad style) and combining them with the tomato juice. As an alternative to shrimp, you can top gazpacho with chopped hard-boiled egg or tofu. Olives, cubed veggies and toasted almond slivers make delicious toppings that add flavor and crunch.
Gazpacho with garlicky-fried shrimp (gambas al ajillo)
- high-powered blender
- 2 cups tomato juice low-sodium
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 12 oz roasted red peppers drained
- 1 English cucumber washed & coarsely cubed
- 10 oz grape tomatoes
- 1/2 medium red onion coarsely chopped
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 ripe avocado peeled, stoned & quartered
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar Alessi is the brand I use
- ¾ tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper freshly ground
- ½ cup mixed, finely cubed vegetables: cucumber, avocado, tomatoes, peppers, onions, etc. to use as topping
Garlicky shrimp (gambas al ajillo)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 10 cloves garlic peeled & coarsely chopped (don't worry, once cooked they're not very pungent)
- ¼ to ½ tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 lb shrimp deveined & peeled, can be frozen & defrosted
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup parsley finely chopped
- pinch salt
- pinch freshly ground black pepper
- Combine tomato juice, roasted peppers, cucumber, tomatoes, onion, garlic, avocado, olive oil, vinegar, salt & pepper in a high-powered blender. (If your blender is small, combine everything in a large bowl and blend in batches.)
- Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Pour into a 1/2-gallon container, cover and refrigerate until serving (keeps for several hours).
- Five minutes before you are ready to eat, cook the shrimp: Warm olive oil in a heavy frying pan over high heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for 20-30 seconds. Don’t brown the garlic or it will taste bitter.
- Now add the shrimp and lemon juice. Sauté, stirring briskly, until the shrimp turn pink – two to three minutes. Remove from heat.
- Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle with parsley and stir to combine.
- Ladle soup into bowls, top with shrimp and and, if desired, some chopped vegetables (cucumber, peppers, avocado, onion, etc.). Serve immediately.