There are many modern variations of gazpacho, often in different colors and omitting the traditional tomatoes and bread in favor of avocados, cucumbers, parsley, watermelon, grapes, meat stock, seafood and other ingredients.
With variations like watermelon, shrimp with avocado and salmorejo with bread, gazpacho has become an almost generic term for chilled vegetable soup. Some Spanish versions wouldn't even be recognizable, such as an almond-based white gazpacho, usually with fruit.
And the soup, albeit a different version from the one we know today, was being eaten in Spain several centuries earlier, brought by the Moors or even possibly the Romans.
The Roman origin is put forth because of that civilization's known fondness for both bread soups and vinegar, writes Anya von Bremzen in "The New Spanish Table" (Workman, 2005).
"Almost every gazpacho I ate in Spain was seasoned with sherry vinegar," said Kelly English, chef/owner of Restaurant Iris in Memphis, Tenn.
The six months he spent in Barcelona in 1999 with the purpose of language immersion is what led him to a culinary career.
"You grow up in Southwest Louisiana, you've got this culture of food, but it's so everyday," he said. "In Spain, you'd see these generational farmers, family-owned farms for hundreds of years -- older than America.
"They'd only bring their best to market and it wasn't just whether they were proud of it, but it was like, 'Would my great-grandfather be proud?' "
The gazpacho he makes at home is his take on the mortar-and-pestle emulsions he ate in Spain, with bread, sherry vinegar and tomatoes.
Some Spanish versions wouldn't be recognizable as gazpacho. Almond-based white gazpacho, usually with fruits such as grapes, apples or figs, are popular. Some versions, including gazpacho's cousin, salmorejo, often contain as much bread as vegetable or fruit. Von Bremzen features a recipe with cherries and beets, and the watermelon version is a logical progression of the watermelon salads that have become popular in the past few years.
But at Curbside Casseroles in Memphis, it's the good ol' American tomato-juice version that owner Bradford Williams sells about 100 quarts of in the two days she's open each week.
"I just started making it last year, because my customers asked for it," she said. "I'm not a big fan of soup and had never had it before, and really, I thought it was something for like my mother, or my grandmother.
"Well, I was wrong. Everybody likes it. Men even like it."
Her recipe is one she developed by experimenting with several others, and it's secret. She'll reveal the basics, but not much more.
"We use cucumber, peppers, parsley, lemon, tomato juice and V-8, a little hot sauce and tomatoes. In the summer, we use all the fresh tomatoes we can, but we'll use good canned tomatoes when we can't get them."
She only sells the soup when it's hot, but around here, the heat comes before the tomatoes.
"When it hits about 85, we start making it," she said.
While Williams uses V-8, cooks who like their gazpacho a little spicy often default to a bit of Bloody Mary mix. A recipe included here calls for Zing-Zang.
As von Bremzen writes -- while listing gazpachos from various areas of Spain (though Andalusia is its home) and the varieties ranging from green gazpachos to creamy ones, fruity soups to those with fresh beans -- the possibilities for this versatile soup are endless.
8 large tomatoes, insides only (see notes)
1/4 baguette, diced or torn (see notes)
1/2 onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
3 sprigs tarragon, stems included
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup good extra-virgin olive oil, plus some for drizzling
Mint, for garnish
Croutons, for garnish (see notes)
Mix all ingredients except olive oil and garnishes, and squish with clean hands. Set in refrigerator for a couple of hours.
Just before serving, process in blender, adding olive oil slowly. Serve, garnishing with mint, a drizzle of olive oil, and croutons. Serves 4 to 6.
Notes: English uses the outside of the tomatoes for salads, though you could add them to your gazpacho for more tomato flavor. He uses a full-size baguette, and to make the croutons, he dices some of the remaining baguette and fries the cubes in a little olive oil until crisp.
-- Kelly English
SHRIMP AND AVOCADO GAZPACHO
1 (46-ounce) bottle Clamato juice
1 cup Zing-Zang Bloody Mary mix
1 English (or seedless cucumber), diced
1/2 medium purple onion, diced, or more to taste
1 stalk celery, diced
1 cup mixed red, green and yellow peppers, diced
Fresh jalapeno pepper, minced, to taste (usually 1 or 2, depending on heat of pepper)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh lime juice, to taste
Hot sauce, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 avocado, diced
1 pound cooked, peeled and deveined shrimp
Mix all ingredients except the avocado and the shrimp. Refrigerate. About half an hour before serving,