It’s hot in Los Angeles. It might even get to 100 degrees later this week. It’s not supposed to be hot here. It’s supposed to be 76 and sunny. But, more and more it seems, it gets hot in LA. When that happens a cold soup – full of ripe, summery flavor – is a refreshing relief. This one is a Chilled Tomato Soup with a smooth, frothy texture and a big dollop of savory whipped cream. I could call this cold summer soup gazpacho. Ludo Lefebvre, the chef who inspired this version, did – but I’m not going to. True it’s a Chilled Tomato Soup featuring raw vegetables, but this summer tomato soup is more delicate than its rustic Spanish cousin.
Chilled Tomato Soup
In my book, traditional gazpacho has a bit more texture than this Chilled Tomato Soup. The traditional texture usually comes from bread or sometimes even nuts. I realize some claim that a gazpacho with bread is properly known as a salmorejo. Both these cold summer soups are Andalusian peasant dishes designed to stretch summer’s bounty to its absolute limit. However, if you want to get that technical I’d have to say the really proper, old-fashioned way to make gazpacho or salmorejo is to chop everything finely by hand and stir it together in a large, chipped ceramic bowl passed down from la cocina de mamá. Which produces a beautifully rustic texture no machine could ever match.
There are other differences between this Chilled Tomato Soup and a classic gazpacho and many of them are French influenced. The tomatoes are peeled and seeded. It seems the French are mad for peeled tomatoes in any and all instances. I guess it’s a presentation thing, but it’s impossible to go to a fancy French restaurant and find a tomato with its skin intact. Can you imagine the tedium of the person whose job it is to peel all those tomatoes?
Speaking of the presentation I also have to mention the pretty color of this Chilled Tomato Soup because even the reddest of ripe tomatoes will produce a gazpacho that falls somewhere between pink and orange. That’s because of the emulsified olive oil in the mix. Some of the worst gazpacho recipes I’ve seen try to make up for this perceived chromatic deficiency by adding lip-stick red, canned tomato juice. Chef Ludo Lefebvre improves the color presentation of this soup just slightly with a few well-chosen ripe red strawberries.
But I have to get back to the texture. That’s where the difference really shines. This soup should be very smooth and whipped full of air until it’s light and frothy. You need to make this soup at least an hour ahead so that it can properly chill. Don’t forget to give it an extra whirl in the blender at the very moment you serve it for the best frothy effect.
Well, with all that said, the real secret to great gazpacho or Chilled Tomato Soup is to use the very best ingredients and a cold, cold fridge on a hot, hot day. GREG