A couple of years ago, I produced what was possibly the most time consuming gazpacho recipe ever. It involved salting vegetables in advance to draw out flavorful internal liquids, freezing the vegetables to break down their cell structure, and pureeing them with bread soaked in vegetable juice and olive oil. It was damn delicious—the best gazpacho I know how to make!—but took in excess of two hours from start to finish. I admit it: it's not exactly the simple, rustic summer dish you want it to be.
That recipe follows what I call the 90/10 rule: when taking a dish from great to excellent, you have to put in 90% more work to make it 10% better. Sometimes, that extra effort is worth it; other times, I'll settle for great-not-perfect in order to save myself a couple hours in the kitchen.
Today, I'm going to share with you the version of gazpacho I make when I'm feeling lazy. Don't worry, it's still knock-your-socks-off tasty.
Great gazpacho relies on excellent ingredients, so this is one part you definitely don't want to skimp on. Find the freshest, ripest, softest, brightest tomatoes you can, along with some great peppers (I used green bell for their grassy bitterness), a red onion, a cucumber, some garlic, and some herbs. In this case I went with oregano, but you can use any herb you'd like.
Gazpacho, at its heart, is a bread- and olive oil-based soup, so those had better be good, too. The bread I used was San Francisco sourdough (throw out the crusts or save them for crumbs), and the olive oil was a Colavita's 100% California extra virgin olive oil, which has a mild, buttery golden flavor.
The key here is to make sure that every bit of flavor gets extracted from your ingredients. I do this by building things up in layers, starting with the torn up bread at the bottom of a bowl.
Next I add a layer of sliced tomatoes and season them generously with salt. The salt will draw out flavorful liquid from inside the tomatoes, which will then drip down and saturate the bread, making it easier to puree in the end.
Next up is a layer of cucumber (I used a seedless English cucumber so I wouldn't have to bother seeding it), sliced garlic, green peppers, onion, and oregano leaves, sprinkled with more salt.
Another layer of salted tomato slices go on top, along with plenty of olive oil. To give the salt a bit of time to work its magic, I let everything sit for just 30 minutes. Juices drip, bread gets soaked, flavors meld, things get happy.
Stir it all up just to distribute everything evenly...
...then load it into the blender in batches.
If you don't mind a chunkier gazpacho, you can just blend until it comes together. I prefer mine to be silky smooth, so I let it blend on high speed for a full three minutes or so, adding in plenty of sherry vinegar and seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.
Pour it all through a chinois for ultimate smoothness.
The easiest way to get soups and purées through a chinois is to press down using the back of a ladle. Forget the spatula!
And lunch is served. Start to finish, about 45 minutes. Is it perfect gazpacho? Nope. Is it 90% perfect gazpacho? Sure is, and that's a pretty darn high percentile if you ask me.
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.