I spent almost a year living in Granada, Spain. The whole city is filled with gardens. Figs and pomegranates grow as weeds; Mediterranean climate at its very best. And all summer long, we drank gazpacho made from local ingredients. Gazpacho is often called a "cold soup" by gringos, but in Spain it is served over ice as an afternoon drink on hot summer days. Delicious and refreshing!
It's a little hotter in Southern Spain than it is Northern California; I think they are zone 9 or 10. But you can still grow your own gazpacho right here on the North Coast, as long as your garden is hot enough for Nightshades. (For added success, see last year's article on best tomato varieties for temperate gardens, "Humboldt Homegrown Tomatoes," June 18, 2015.)
Here is a quick rundown of everything you will need to make homegrown gazpacho, followed by a recipe I learned from a Native Andalusian chef. The varietal recommendations are my own, based on my experience and the flavors that I find work best.
Tomatoes. Any tomatoes will do but for gazpacho I prefer Roma, Beefsteak and Ox-heart varieties. Or try a combination of San Marzano, Brandywine and any color Ox-heart. Black Krim also makes an excellent gazpacho. Or take the traditional route and use only Romas with the seeds and skin removed. Me, I just throw the whole tomato in. Make sure to choose the ripest, sweetest ones. Underripe tomatoes don't yield the right texture.
Cucumbers. Lemon cukes work great, especially the big ones that get knobby skin and start to turn green! You don't need a lot of cucumber for a batch of gazpacho. Just find a medium-sized one, peel it, remove the seeds and toss it in. If you don't grow lemon cukes, any salad cucumber will work just fine. Even pickling cukes. The cucumber in the gazpacho is really more for texture than flavor, so as long as you remove the skin and seeds, you're all good.
Peppers. Poblano are my absolute favorite pepper to use in gazpacho. I also really like Anaheim, but be sure to remove every single seed! Gazpacho is not supposed to be spicy at all. It is a soothing, nourishing summer drink for when your energy wanes on a hot afternoon. A siesta snack, as it were.
Onions. Yellow Spanish onions are the traditional type to use. Any variety will do just fine. For a slightly different flavor, try my favorite, Red Torpedo onions. These are easy to grow in our climate, despite their large size. They don't store quite as well as other onions, but in my experience, they never last that long anyway because they are so delicious.
Garlic. No batch of gazpacho is complete without just a smidgen of garlic to set off the other flavors. Not surprisingly, my favorite is Spanish Roja. It just seems to have that perfect, authentic flavor. Garlic flavors vary widely and, for some reason, the subtlety of good gazpacho seems especially susceptible to ruination by too much garlic, or by the wrong kind. Experiment a little to see how you like it.
Apples. Apples are not a traditional gazpacho ingredient, and they weren't in that recipe I learned from my Spanish friend. But a fellow gardener who is gluten-free recommended I use apples instead of bread in the recipe, and I love it, so I include an apple tree in my gazpacho garden design. My favorite apples to use are Pink Lady, Gala and Granny Smith. Choose a fruit that is still a few days underripe. Think of the texture of hard bread.
Cilantro. This is an optional ingredient in gazpacho, and some people don't like cilantro at all. Evidently, it's actually a gene in your DNA that makes cilantro taste like soap. Anyway, I love cilantro and include it here because it makes a lovely garnish. Any variety will work just fine.
All of the other ingredients in gazpacho are probably staples in your kitchen: olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper. Here's the recipe:
Measurements are not exact. Add or subtract spicy ingredients to suit your taste.
1 cucumber, peeled, seeds removed
1 or 2 peppers, seeds removed
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 apple, seeds removed and sliced OR 1 apple-sized slice of hard sourdough bread
3 cloves garlic
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon each salt and pepper
1 sprig of cilantro
Combine salt, pepper, oil and vinegar in a bowl and marinate the sliced apple (or bread) for at least an hour. Put all ingredients in a blender and cover with just enough water to make it blend into a smoothie-like consistency. It should be drinkable through a straw. Serve over ice in chilled pint glasses and sprinkle chopped cilantro on top.