What Exactly Is Gazpacho?

Why shouldn’t summer be soup season? Sure, not many of us relish the thought of slurping steamy bowls of chicken noodle, beef and barley and French onion in 90-degree weather. But the truth is, there are so many options that are as sunshine appropriate as a popsicle, from cool cucumber to ruby-hued beet borscht.

So what is the main ingredient in the soup called gazpacho? The quick answer is raw tomatoes — along with uncooked peppers, onions, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and stale bread used as thickener — although the relatively newfangled addition didn’t come about until the 19th century, after the discovery of the Americas.

Believed to date back to Roman times, when soldiers regularly carried dried bread, garlic and vinegar on their backs, the dish became popularized in Andalusia in the southern region of Spain, where it’s an excellent antidote to hot and arid summers.

And while most of us remain familiar with that tomato-based “red” gazpacho, the truth is, it comes in all colors of the rainbow! White is actually even more traditional, made with crushed almonds, grapes or dried fruits, that are reflective of its Moorish influences (ajo blanco is a close cousin of gazpacho). And there are green versions, which can feature avocado, cucumber, peppers, or handfuls of fresh herbs. Even the red kind doesn’t need to rely on tomatoes — look for chilled purees of watermelon, strawberries or peppers.

Which is to say, you have free reign to experiment in the kitchen when it comes to gazpacho! You can keep things classic with Alton’s fan-favorite 5-star gazpacho, Ina’s cold, plum tomato gazpacho (pictured; it only takes 20 minutes in the food processor!), or work in a bit of watermelon, courtesy of Tyler. Go green with Gazpacho Soup Shooters, or gather nuts and grapes, for Chilled White Gazpacho from Bobby.

But the better bet might be to try them all. Because as the popular Spanish refrain goes, “De gazpacho no hay empacho.” There’s never too much gazpacho!

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