Most cooks rely on supermarket produce for their homemade gazpacho. Even the highest-quality store-bought tomatoes and veggies can taste bland and watery, making for bland and watery soup.
Instead of the salsa-y gazpacho common in America, we wanted to make a creamy version of the soup popular in Andalusia, a southern region of Spain. This gazpacho is creamy and startlingly complex, with the bright, fresh flavor of naturally ripened vegetables.
Andalusian gazpacho combines cucumber, bell pepper, onion, and tomatoes with a slice of bread (for body), a generous glug of extra-virgin olive oil, and a bracing shot of sherry vinegar. The entire mixture is pureed in a blender. In our first attempts at this recipe, we softened the bread in water and added two cloves of garlic. Our soup was smooth and emulsified, but horribly bland. Swapping a green pepper for the traditional red was an improvement, and a single serrano chile added a touch of heat. But the real challenge was figuring out how to coax the most flavor from supermarket tomatoes.
Our research revealed that a tomato’s flavor is built up in its cells, and the key to improving the taste of an inferior supermarket tomato is to burst those cells. We decided to try salting the tomatoes and letting them sit. The salt pulls out water-soluble flavor compounds as it forces the proteins to separate from those compounds, releasing more flavor. We tossed diced tomatoes in kosher salt, came back an hour later, and pureed them along with their exuded juice. Sure enough, this puree boasted a deep, full flavor that was clearly superior to that of plain pureed tomatoes. Following the same process with the other vegetables yielded our finest soup yet. As a last flavor-boosting step, we soaked the bread in the exuded vegetable juices instead of water. A final dash of olive oil and sherry vinegar on top of the finished soup further brightened the flavor. After a diced-vegetable garnish and sprinkle of fresh herbs, our soup looked as fresh and flavorful as it tasted.