Gazpacho is a kind of soup that is usually served cold, is very easy to make and is great for the warm summer months. It is frequently a tomato-based soup, but there are many variations that also include things like melons, grapes, avocados and various other fruits or vegetables, usually raw. Soaked bread is frequently used to thicken the texture of the soup.

The origins of gazpacho are disputed, but most food historians trace the origins of gazpacho to the Andalusian province of Spain. Some believe the early forms of gazpacho arrived in Spain via the Moors, who occupied the Iberian Peninsula in the 8th through 12th centuries, but others believe that the early forms of gazpacho arrived in Spain before this, with the arrival of the Romans, who loved to eat bread soaked in vinegar and/or olive oil. Originally gazpacho was made of stale bread, water and olive oil, placed in a wooden bowl (or some kind of mortar and pestle), pounded to a soup- or porridge-like consistency, and was peasant food. It later evolved to include tomatoes and other vegetables, and many modern gazpacho recipes don’t use bread at all. In most cases, the mortar and pestle has been abandoned for the making of gazpacho in favor of a blender or food processor. But some chefs will use a mortar and pestle if they are looking for a specific consistency that cannot be achieved via modern mechanical methods.

Here are a two easy-to-make gazpacho recipes.

Classic Gazpacho

3 lbs of very ripe tomatoes
1 seedless cucumber
2 bell peppers, coarsely chopped
1 jalapeño pepper (or habañero if you want a little brighter flavor and some extra zing)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar, sherry vinegar or balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
(Optional: one small red onion, chopped)

If you cannot find nice, ripe, flavorful tomatoes (like heirloom tomatoes or fresh from your home garden, as opposed to the pale flavorless tomatoes that are so ubiquitous in grocery stores now), it’s better to use high quality canned tomatoes. Core the tomatoes, and core and seed the peppers, peel the cucumber, and coarsely chop the vegetables. If you want some extra texture for your gazpacho, reserve a small amount of the vegetables to put in after the rest are blended and finely dice them. Put all the ingredients in the blender or food processor (except diced veggies you reserved for texture) and puree to desired consistency. Place the pureed vegetables in a container and stir in the diced veggies. Cover the gazpacho and refrigerate overnight. To serve, ladle into bowls and garnish with perhaps a dollop of sour cream or some sliced avocados. Fresh mint, parsley or basil leaves also make an excellent garnish. Fresh mint, parsly, basil, oregano or other fresh herbs can also be added to the blended mix to taste. For a thicker consistency, take some hearty (bakery-type) bread (stale bread works well), cut into cubes and soak it briefly in water. Drain and pat the bread dry, and add to the blender with the veggies.

Watermelon Gazpacho

6 cups seedless watermelon
2 seedless cucumbers
2 red, yellow or orange bell peppers
1 medium sized onion
1/2 jalapeño pepper

Peel the cucumbers and coarsely chop all of the fruits and veggies and throw them together into a blender or food processor. If you like, reserve a small portion of the watermelon and chop into finer pieces to add to the pureed gazpacho when you serve it.

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (don’t use concentrate, as this will tend to be too acidic)
2 Tblsp olive oil
2 Tblsp fresh ginger (finely minced or grated)
3 Tblsp local raw honey
1/2 cup fresh pineapple juice
20 or so fresh basil leaves (reserve a few leaves for garnish)

Add all ingredients into the blender or food processor with the chopped fruits and veggies and puree to desired consistency. Refrigerate overnight, and serve in bowls garnished with finely diced watermelon, some fresh basil leaves and a liberal sprinkling of crumbled feta cheese.