Gazpacho," Alice B. Toklas was told in a Seville bookstore during one of her trips with Gertrude Stein, "is eaten in Spain only by peasants and Americans." The writer and her friend had tried this floating salad in Màlaga and Seville, and the search for a recipe had, as Miss Toklas put it, "unquestionably become of greater importance than Grecos and Zurbarans, than cathedrals and museums." And well it might, for gazpacho is not only as cool and refreshing in summer heat as vichyssoise or sénégalaise but has virtually none of the calories that make these chilled soups objectionable to the diet-minded.
An earlier visitor to Spain from France, Théophile Gautier, was less pleased with the dish than the Misses Stein and Toklas. "This gazpacho is worthy of a special description," he wrote. "At home, a dog of any breeding would refuse to sully its nose with such a compromising mixture." But he went on: "It is the favourite dish of the Andalusians, and the prettiest women do not shrink from swallowing bowlfuls of this hell-broth of an evening...strange as it may seem the first time one tastes it, one ends by getting used to it and even liking it."
The origins of gazpacho go back to Biblical times. Boaz at mealtime invited Ruth to dip her bread into a gazpacho. This was also the posca (from potus et esca, food and drink) that formed part of the rations of the Roman soldiers and was brought by them into North Africa and Spain. Greek writers mentioned √≤ŒæœçŒ∫œÅŒ±œÑŒøŒΩ as long ago as 60 A.D.
Strongly scented with herbs, its olive oil base mixed with water or a light consommé to make an amber background for the vegetables floating in it, gazpacho is just as fresh and healthful as it looks on a hot summer day. A food rich in vitamins, it generates energy and holds the waistline. Its only high-calorie ingredient is one-third of a cup of olive oil, and it is divided among four persons—about 150 calories each.
Not the least of gazpacho's charms is that it is easy to assemble (a proper word, since it is not cooked). Its main ingredients are herbs (as many as you like, but all must be fresh), olive oil, garlic and lemon juice. Anything good from the garden can be added, the more important vegetables being sweet peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes—all fresh-picked, if possible.
In preparing it, the most important thing to remember is that the oil, garlic, herbs and lemon juice should be mixed thoroughly together into a thick marinade before the water or consommé is added. The finished soup must be served very cold. Gazpacho can be carried in thermos containers on picnics and camping trips, and it is especially useful for the hostess who wants to keep her guests occupied, and more or less sober, while she is getting the steaks ready at a cook-out. A big tureen of it, to be served in cups with toasted crusts, makes a good appetizer. If the gazpacho loses a popularity contest with the dry Martini or Scotch on the rocks, don't throw it away. Ripened, and kept chilled, it can serve as a fine remedy the following morning for hangovers.
GAZPACHO: COOL AND HEALTHFUL
Mixed handful of fresh herbs—parsley, chives, dill, tarragon, basil or others to suit your taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
‚Öì cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt, pepper, Spanish paprika
4 cups water or clear chicken broth
1 mild onion, thinly sliced in rings
1 green pepper, thinly sliced
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 cup diced peeled cucumber
Chop the herbs and mix with the garlic. Put in a soup tureen; add the oil slowly, stirring, and then the lemon juice and seasonings. Pour in the water or broth, and add the onion, green pepper and tomatoes. Chill for at least four hours, preferably overnight. Keep the cucumber in the icebox, and shortly before serving dice it and add to the soup. Serves four