One hot day, when my mother-inlaw was visiting us, she suggested putting the
Israeli salad I was making in the blender to make a cold soup. When she tasted
the result, she had another suggestion: Add fresh mint.
That’s how our
family’s Israeli gazpacho was born.
Spanish gazpacho is usually heartier
than the one we make. In fact, wrote my friend Clifford A. Wright, author of
Mediterranean Vegetables, gazpacho started as a bread soup with almonds, garlic,
olive oil, vinegar and salt and “probably originated when Spain was part of the
Islamic world in the Middle Ages.”
Tomatoes and peppers came to gazpacho
only after Christopher Columbus.
You could consider today’s gazpacho a
type of tomato soup. Even though it usually also contains peppers and cucumbers,
it’s the tomatoes combined with olive oil that give the soup its flavor and
character. In describing what makes good gazpacho, Wright wrote, “Above all, the
tomatoes must be of the sweetest, vineripened, height-of-the season type.” His
gazpacho calls for garlic pounded with salt, then blended with roasted sweet
pepper, week-old French bread soaked in tomato juice and water, a generous
amount of tomatoes, olive oil, cucumber, sherry vinegar, yolks of hard-boiled
eggs, salt, black pepper and optional cumin and ice cubes. Diced tomatoes,
onions, parsley or chopped olives can be added for garnish.
surprising that other Mediterranean soups are also based on the pairing of
tomatoes and olive oil.
Italians are known for their tomato sauces, but
they make a variety of tomato soups as well. When we visited Florence, we
enjoyed the classic Tuscan soup, pappa al pomodoro, at the famous Coco Lezzone
Like gazpacho, this tomato soup had humble beginnings. It,
too, was a way to use up stale bread. The bread makes the soup more satisfying
and is important for the soup’s texture. Viana La Place and Evan Kleiman,
authors of Cucina Fresca, wrote, “If you do not have access to good country
bread, do not attempt the recipe.”
They also emphasized the importance of
using olive oil of the highest possible quality with a strong fruity
To make their Tuscan tomato soup, they saute bread slices until
golden, together with garlic and fresh sage, in a generous amount of olive oil.
Next, they simmer the mixture with pureed tomatoes and water until the soup
reaches the right consistency. They recommend serving the soup tepid with grated
For a lighter soup, which they call minestra fresca,
they simmer pureed tomatoes with sauteed garlic and chicken stock and finish it
with fresh marjoram.
The soup is served chilled with grissini (bread
Cooks in southern France make a soup similar to minestra
According to Diana Shaw, author of Sweet Basil, Garlic, Tomatoes,
, Nicoise tomato soup is made from a generous amount of fresh tomatoes
cooked with sliced onions that have been sauteed in olive oil. The soup is
flavored with thyme, bay leaves, cloves, basil and sugar.
After the bay
leaves and cloves are removed, the soup is pureed and finished with a paste of
garlic, olive oil and parsley.
In Mexico, where many historians believe
tomatoes were first cultivated, cooks also prepare tomato soups. A popular one
is made of tomatoes cooked with sauteed onions and chicken broth, and a
last-minute garnish of fried corn tortilla strips. Often the soup is flavored
with garlic and fresh coriander. Sometimes other vegetables, such as semi-hot
peppers or carrots, might be added; and, as in Italy, this tomato soup might be
served with grated cheese.LIGHT GAZPACHO Makes 4 servings
gazpacho is made in many versions.
Certain ones are thickened with ground
almonds, pine nuts, hazelnuts or bread crumbs, while others, like this one,
contain no thickener.
This light soup gets a burst of flavor from fresh
ripe tomatoes and sweet peppers. A portion of the vegetables is pureed; the rest
are diced and added for garnish. You can make the soup a day ahead; refrigerate it in a covered container.
To prepare my Israeli
gazpacho, see the variation.
✔ 900 gr. ripe tomatoes
✔ 2 small cucumbers,
✔ 2 medium-size red or green sweet peppers, or 1 of each kind
✔ 1⁄2 red
onion, finely diced
✔ 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, or to taste
✔ 1 to 2 Tbsp.
wine vinegar, or to taste
✔ 1 cup cold water
✔ Salt and freshly ground pepper
Finely dice 225 grams of the tomatoes, 1 cucumber and half the sweet peppers.
Add diced onion. Set mixture aside to add at serving time.
Peel and seed
remaining tomatoes: Cut cores from tomatoes, turn tomatoes over and slit skin in
an X-shaped cut. Put tomatoes in a pan of boiling water and boil 10 to 15
seconds. Remove tomatoes with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl of cold water.
After a few seconds, remove tomatoes from water and pull off skins with the aid
of a paring knife. Cut each tomato in half. Hold tomato half cut side down over
a bowl and squeeze to remove most of seeds, reserving juice.
in blender. Strain reserved tomato juice and add to blender. Add remaining
cucumber, remaining sweet pepper, olive oil, vinegar and water. Blend until
smooth. Pour soup into a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate
for 1 or 2 hours.
When serving soup, add diced vegetables to each
Israeli Gazpacho: Use only 1 sweet pepper. Substitute lemon juice
for the vinegar. At serving time, add 1 Tbsp.
chopped or slivered fresh
mint leaves.MEXICAN TOMATO SOUP WITH TORTILLA CHIPS Makes 4 servings
Traditional cooks fry corn tortillas in strips to make this soup, but to save
time you can purchase toasted tortillas and break them into pieces, or use
tortilla chips or corn chips. Usually the soup is made from cooked tomatoes, but
I finish it with raw tomatoes for a fresh touch. If you like, serve the soup
with grated mild cheese or diced avocado.
In Mexico, vegetable oil is
usually used to make this soup, but now olive oil is being produced in Mexico
and more and more cooks are using it.
To peel and seed tomatoes, see the
second paragraph in the recipe above.
✔ 570 gr. ripe tomatoes, peeled,
seeded and chopped
✔ 1 to 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil or olive oil
✔ 1 medium onion,
✔ 2 semi-hot green peppers or 1 sweet green pepper, diced ✔ 2 large
garlic cloves, minced
✔ 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth, or mixed broth and
✔ 1⁄3 cup coarsely chopped cilantro (fresh coriander)
✔ Salt and freshly
✔ Cayenne pepper to taste
✔ Tortilla chips to finish
Set aside 3⁄4
cup chopped tomatoes for finishing the soup.
Heat the oil in a saucepan.
Add onion and peppers and saute over medium heat, stirring often, for 5 minutes
or until onion is light brown. Add garlic and saute for 1⁄2 minute. Add broth
and remaining tomatoes and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer, stirring
occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes or until tomatoes are tender. Just before
serving, reheat soup if necessary.
Add reserved tomatoes, most of
cilantro and salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste. Serve soup
sprinkled with tortilla strips and remaining cilantro.
■ Faye Levy is the author
Faye Levy’s International Vegetable Cookbook.