To start this off, I’ll share a simple Gazpacho recipe I sent to my aunt in '09. I made it overly elaborate, and I made a few digressions, but the basic recipe in bold is foolproof. I’m just doing this to show everyone that whatever you post here, it’s not going to be worse than this:
OK, going to give you the text, with a few comments in italics. Anything in italics are my personal notes. What I actually do is added after the recipe. You could do the original recipe with great results, btw, it’s kind of an idiot-proof dish (that’s why so many people puree it: they’re lazy and want to have an easy, tasty side course. Drop the ingredients into a blender, and you’re done! I personally hate “blender salad.”)
Get this stuff!
1 cucumber (I sometimes add or substitute a little high-quality deli or kosher pickle, about 1/4 or 1/8 cucumber’s worth)
1 red onion (I use sweet onion, but red does look good and adds zip. If your onions are small, you may need 2 or 3)
1 clove fresh garlic (I sometimes use 2 if small, more on garlic later)
1/4 cup oil (extra virgin olive oil)
1/4 cup vinegar (I use balsamic vinegar, and add somewhere from a tea- to a table-spoon apple cider vinegar to compensate for the lack of acidity)
3/4 pint tomato juice (= 1 1/2 cups, = 12 oz, = one soda-sized can of V8. V8 adds more flavor, smoother texture, and more salt than tomato juice.)
1 yellow pepper (green peppers aren’t ripe and taste unripe. They should never be used for gazpacho. Orange or red are ok, but yellow is best for color)
salt and pepper to taste (get to salt in a moment, but always use fresh ground pepper. A fun substitute for pepper: grains of paradise (aka alligator pepper)!
optional: fresh cilantro, maybe fresh basil or other fresh herb to taste
optional? not really: 1 fresh jalapeno pepper, preferably red-ripe, but green is ok
Tabasco sauce. Also not really optional
Chop all the vegetables into small pieces. Mix tomato juice, oil, and vinegar with a spoon. Add the chopped vegetables. Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill and serve to your buds!
That’s a fine recipe. Make it, ignore my italics, and you’ll be happy. But here’s what I do:
Examine all veggies when you buy them. Only get the ones that make you happy. Do organic when you can, especially for the cucumber and tomatoes, but only if they’re good quality.
Chop veggies in order on the same board: in order of most-flavorful to most flavor-retaining: garlic, then onion, then peppers, then tomato, then cucumber. If you use a little bit of a deli pickle, I’ve no idea when you should chop it, that’s a work in progress.
On a sturdy chopping board, with a solid and sharp chef’s knife, smack a clove or two of garlic (depending on how big they are) with the flat of the blade to peel it. Walk the knife over the garlic a bit. Throw a couple of large pinches of coarse salt (kosher or sea) on the garlic (combined with the salt from the V8 later on, this is where all your salt for the dish is coming from). With the flat of the blade, smoosh and grind the salt into the garlic. Think about scraping on wallpaper paste, or mortaring bricks, that should give some idea about how to smoosh the garlic. You could use a mortar and pestle (it’s more traditional), but you retain a lot of flavor by using one cutting board.
The point is to have a runny wet garlicky liquid paste, with no chunks, that will dissolve into the soup. If it seems like you can’t get rid of the chunks, add a little more salt. If you started with too much salt, adding more garlic isn’t necessarily a good idea, but it is an exciting one!
Scrape that mess into the oil and vinegar, and mix it up a little. This will retain some of the volatile (and tasty) oils, and un-harsh the “gaaalic” a little.
Chop the onion. Try to get any garlic/salt mess to rub off of the knife and cutting board onto the onion.
Do 1/4 to 1/2 the onion at a time, it makes it a little easier, and this is the reason why: You want to chop most of it into tiny, itty-bitty pieces, so after the main chop, walk the knife over it until you really get sick of doing it (this will be the technique for most of the veggies). It’s becomes the body of the soup, and the flavors will marry well. But, you want to have some of it, about 1/4 to 1/3 of the onion, in pieces no larger than 1/2 your pinkie nail. This will add texture and crunch to the final soup. I call this our chopping algorithm.
Scrape it off into the bowl, add the can of V8, and stir. Start tasting every so often.
Seed and de-vein the jalapeno. If you are sensitive, wear gloves for this, but when finished, a de-veined jalapeno isn’t very hot. Chop it until your arm is tired: because the jalapeno is much smaller than any other veggie we’re using, you want it in tiny pieces to get the flavor throughout the soup, and so there are no surprise bites of jalapeno. Scrape Into Bowl And Stir (hereafter referred as SIBAS).
Tear the stem and seeds out of the yellow pepper. The veins can stay, unless you have something against them, just be sure the veins are chopped real tiny, they have flavor, but no crunch. About 1/4 of the crunchy part should be in pieces no larger than pinkie nail, most should be itty-bitty, some should be in-between (the chopping algorithm). SIBAS.
Slice tomatoes in half through their waist. Over a sink or garbage bowl, stick your fingers into where all the seeds are, and poke those seeds out. They’ll squirt everywhere. Don’t stress it too much, a few seeds won’t kill you. Chop those suckers up using the same algorithm: about 1/3 no bigger than pinkie,etc. You’ll find this will turn the smaller chop into mush, and will have a hard time dealing with chopping the skin. I personally don’t do it, but the use of a food processor or something for some of the tomatoes is forgivable. SIBAS.
Partially peel the cucumber, so you have broad strips of peel/unpeel running up and down the 'cumber (if you can only go organic with one veggie, do it with the cucumber. Conventional cuckes have waxy, tough, bitter peels. You don’t have to peel most organic cuckes at all). Follow the chopping algorithm. SIBAS.
Grind pepper into it, until it no longer needs pepper. If you use grains of paradise, make sure it is ground fine: it’s corns are a bit hard. Take a bottle of Tabasco and fire it into the bowl a few times. This will not make it hot.
Keep tasting it. It may need more salt, pepper, or acid (in the form of vinegars, Tabasco, or even citrus). It may even need more garlic!
Keep it in the fridge for 1-3 days. Aww, go ahead, have a bowl now!
Just before serving, take your cilantro (and possibly basil or other fresh herbs, don’t use more than 2-3 different kinds), and pull off & wash what you need (guestimate 1/2 tablespoon-ish of each? Aw hell, make it more than you need, you just wont use it all). Chiffonade the herbs (stack herbs up, smaller leaves on top of bigger leaves, roll them up, and slice that roll into ribbons. Walk the knife over the ribbons a few times). Add to taste.
Totally optional: lemon/lime zest (just before serving); lemon/lime juice to substitute some of the vinegar; fresh grated hard cheese; croutons on the side or just before serving; a nice crusty bread (traditionally stale bread, but really…); chopped olives; diced mushrooms; (just before serving) sliced hard-boiled egg and/or shaved ham on top; and diced all-the-veggies-that-are-already-in-the-soup on the side, to be used as toppings (usually done with “blender-salad,” seems ridiculous to me why it’s pureed if you serve with chopped veggies as a topping).