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Tradition Meets Modernity: New Ideas for Old Tapas (Part I: Gazpacho)

Ask anyone, “What does Spain mean to you?” And they will quickly respond, “bullfighting, flamenco and tapas”. Spain’s overcoat is woven in tradition, and it is proud of that heritage – as it should be. Since the sunset of the Franco era, Spain has catapulted into the present-day without losing sight of centuries of tradition. Today it is almost impossible to find someone who is unfamiliar with El Bulli or Ferran Adrià, our Master of Gastronomic Modernity. Fortunately, one does not need to create a liquid olive or culinary foam to create a modern spin on the tapas of Spain’s past and present. My humble attempt to do just this caused me to focus on three of my all-time favorite dishes: Gazpacho (Part I); Tortilla Española (Part II); and pan con tomate (Part III). In doing so I gained more respect and admiration for the traditional dish while finding pleasure in the new and, if I do say so myself, incredibly delicious.

Our journey begins in the south of Spain with the Mother of all soups, hot or cold: Gazpacho. Rumor has it that this soup was brought to Spain by the Moors and consisted of only bread, garlic, olive oil, and garlic. Apparently, tomatoes found their way to our “modern” version around the 18th century after a famine in Italy deemed the unusual fruit worthy of being consumed. Whether true or not, the reality is that gazpacho was the means for folks in southern Spain to cool off during the summer and use those ingredients most available, namely fresh vegetables. Served cold, this fresh and lively soup has found its way into the homes of food-lovers all over the world as an expression of all things Spanish.

So, we begin with a “traditional” gazpacho and then move onto two variations. I have found this one of the easiest dishes to prepare and almost always have a pitcher of it in my refrigerator.

Following is my basic gazpacho recipe:

8-10 Roma tomatoes
½ Green bell pepper, roughly chopped
½ Cucumber (peeled and seeded), roughly chopped
2-3 Garlic cloves
½ cup Olive Oil
½ cup water
Splash of Sherry Vinegar
Pinch of salt
Bread (optional)

Directions

  1. Quarter the tomatoes and fill a blender approximately ¾ of the way to the top;
  2. Add the pepper, cucumber, garlic, olive oil, water, Sherry vinegar, and salt
  3. If you wish a thicker gazpacho, add the white part of the bread after it has soaked
    in water for about 10 minutes;
  4. Blend on high for about 2-3 minutes until completely blended (and almost
    annihilated!)
  5. To make the gazpacho creamier I add a bit more olive oil.
  6. Refrigerate overnight. Garnish with any of the ingredients used in the gazpacho
    (finely diced) and serve with pan con tomate (some new variations of which are
    coming soon!).

First of all, let me start by saying that I cannot imagine bettering traditional gazpacho. With that being said, I have given it my most valiant attempt. The two variations that follow provide a new perspective on and old standard. Try my Spicy Gazpacho for a
cold soup with a kick or my Roasted Gazpacho for a smoky, outdoor-tasting gazpacho.

Variation 1: Spicy Gazpacho

8-10 Roma tomatoes
½ green bell pepper
½ cucumber (seeded)
3 cloves garlic
1 Jalapeno (w/ seeds)
½ bunch cilantro
Small piece of day old bread (soaked in water for about 15 minutes)
Olive Oil
Sherry vinegar
Salt
Water

Directions

  1. To the above traditional Gazpacho recipe add one whole jalapeño (with seeds)
    and ½ bunch of fresh cilantro.
  2. Continue with recipe as listed above and blend until completely mixed.
  3. Garnish with a couple of thin slices of avocado and some cilantro leaves.

Variation 2: Roasted Gazpacho

12-15 Roma Tomatoes
1 large red bell pepper
1 red Jalapeno pepper (w/ seeds)
3 cloves garlic
½ cucumber (seeded)
Small piece of day old bread (soaked in water for about 15 minutes)
Olive Oil
Sherry vinegar
Salt
Water

Directions

  1. Roast the tomatoes, pepper, and garlic in a 350° oven for about 30-35 minutes.
  2. Before adding the ingredients to the blender let the vegetables cool completely
    before adding to the blender and continuing with the above recipe.
  3. Garnish with roasted piquillo peppers and croutons.

Spain has one foot in the traditional and the other in the modern when it comes to cuisine. Both variations above stay true to the original and deserve their respective places on the Spanish table. Don’t hesitate to add your own twist to any of the above recipes and create your own take on this Spanish classic, just make sure to tell us about them in the comments below!

Cheers,

Rick Fisher

  • dougsmith

    Nice Manzanilla there with the gazpacho …

  • Steve Santos

    The spicey one sounds good Rick I will give it a shot some time.

  • maria

    Hi – In recent years there has been a trend to add other ingredients to the traditional tomato gazpacho, the one that works particularly well in my opinion is gazpacho de remolacha. Strangely adding fresh roasted beetroot gives it a greater depth, sweetness and richness to the gazpacho. One for future experiments?

    • Rick

      Maria, that is a very interesting idea! I will definitely give it a shot.