TomatoMania- Hollywood Bowl of Gazpacho

Andalusian Tomato GazpachoIt’s Monday. Time for a little more tomato love. Of course I mean TomatoMania.

The tomato plants at my house are really picking up the pace.

Plus I went to the Hollywood Farmers Market yesterday and saw a lot of spectacular specimens. Naturally I even picked up a few.

If you have been following Sup! lately then you may know I broke my jaw and am on a liquid diet. Which has made for a week of interesting soups including: Leek and Potato, Poblano and even a dessert version, Plum Soup with Tarragon and Blackberries.

Today being a Maniac Monday I think it is high time I made another of the TomatoMania contest winning recipes. After all we are smack dab in the heart of tomato season. I have great tomatoes I picked up yesterday and even quite a few home grown tomatoes too.

But with my jaw wired shut there are limitations to what I can eat. Never fear. One of the winning recipes is a perfect choice for the season, for the weather and for my “situation”.

That’s right gazpacho. More precisely Nate and Annie’s (from House of Annie) Lazy Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho with Cucumber and Red Bell Pepper Garnish.

SippitySup at the Hollwood Bowl Greg HenryI made this as part of my Hollywood Bowl picnic last night. We saw Ray LaMontagne, Jenny Lewis and Blitzen Trapper. It was a great evening under the stars. And incidentally among the stars too. It seems our box this year is front and center. Right in the middle of the highly volatile celebrity zone. We saw a big-time basketball player and his “way into Ray” wife dancing the night away. There was a country singer as well as  a prime-time TV star sporting a pistachio colored fedora. 

But you are more interested in the food!

The gazpacho I made per Nate and Annie was refreshing and pleasantly acidic. It was a great start to our picnic.

This version contains a lot of really good heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers and paprika. There is also a good splash of red wine Gazpacho recipe cardvinegar. I honestly loved this recipe and will turn to it again and again in the future when I am feeling “lazy”.

But the word lazy got me thinking. Why did they call it lazy? Certainly it is easy to prepare. But most of the tomato based gazpacho recipes I have seen are nearly as simple.

So there must be a more difficult version out there someplace. I pulled out my favorite Spanish Cookbook La Cucina de Mama by Penelope Casas and I decided to do some research.

First off there are many, many versions of gazpacho in this world. Many of them do not get within 100 yards of a tomato either. 

The tomato gazpacho is most identified with the southern area of Spain. In its most basic form it contains tomatoes, red bell pepper, garlic, bread cubes, sherry vinegar, olive oil and ground cumin. It is found with “surprisingly few variations all over Andalusia” according to Penelope Casas. It is also typically served in a glass rather than a bowl.

But gazpacho is actually a broad and ancient moniker for a chilled Moorish soup. Originally (and still in some parts of Spain) it is known as ajo blanco, or white gazpacho. In this form it is a creamy soup containing ground almonds, cucumbers, yogurt and garlic. 

Historically speaking the next version of gazpacho was a green soup. Because tomatoes had not yet been introduced to Spain. So rather than tomatoes, the soup relies on spinach, lettuce, parsley and other greens to give a unique green color to the soup.

heirloom tomatoesToday’s gazpacho is most frequently red and made with tomatoes. And it is indeed a spectacular way to enjoy the summer bounty of the mighty tom.

Most of the recipes I have come across also include cucumbers. But I can’t seem to determine when they were added to the mixture. Perhaps it is merely the obvious next step in combining the ancient white version with the more modern Andalusian version.

Whenever and however they came to be accepted as part of the recipe matters not to me. Because I think they are the perfect addition. They add a cooling element and a nice “watery” taste with out adding too much liquid. 

Cilantro is often a very nice North American addition too. One I have usually incorporated into my gazpachos. But you know what? Nate and Annie’s version did not call for it and, as much as I love cilantro, I am rethinking my allegiance to it in gazpacho. Because this gazpacho had a pure tomato essence that sprang out of the bowl and just made me think summer!


Greg Henry