Chill Out with Gazpacho

Photos by Len Villano

Eating is good this time of year! Throughout these all-too-brief summer months, we watch our bountiful gardens come into their full glory. A garden or farmers’ market is the place to find all the essential ingredients — packed with flavor — to satisfy the summer palate. 

It’s the time of year to keep the cuisine simple and add a splash of vinegar or oil, a bit of salt and pepper, and lots of fresh herbs. Let the flavors speak for themselves. This kind of eating is sexy and delightful; you will have no regrets!

When the heat goes up, our appetites tend to go down: We humans are just not as hungry in 90 percent humidity. During the dog days of summer, the last thing I want to do is cook over a hot stove or turn on the oven. In the modern days of air conditioning, this is not as much of a bother, but on principal I try to follow the ways of yesteryear. 

My family eats a lot of salads this time of year, and each is different depending on what’s ripe at the time. Another super fun, no-heat meal using fresh produce is gazpacho. This chilled soup is the epitome of summer cuisine, and you can store a batch in your refrigerator for up to three days.

Gazpacho is a classic Spanish dish that originated in the southern region of Andalusia and was thought to have migrated to Spain with the Romans. It was a main dietary staple for shepherds and peasants in the region.

Historically, gazpacho makers used a mortar and pestle to grind ingredients such as garlic, olive oil, water, salt and stale bread into a paste. Then they added ripe tomatoes to the paste and stored the soup in an earthen jar. 

Making a batch of gazpacho in modern times is much less labor-intensive when you use a blender or food processor, but if you have the time, inclination and resources to do it the (very) old-fashioned way, it will be easier to achieve your desired consistency. You’ll also avoid the foam that modern-day appliances can produce.

Gazpacho is traditionally tomato-based, but many variations have surfaced over the years that can easily be classified by color: red (tomato and cucumber), white (may include watermelon, strawberries and/or raw Marcona almonds), or green (avocado and tomatillo), to give a few examples. Some variations include seafood such as shrimp; others use Spanish ham. A fun way to serve gazpacho is to provide garnish options on the side — sweet corn, herbs, mango, pomegranate seeds, scallions, hard-boiled eggs — so that everyone can add what they like. 

Gazpacho is defined as fresh, raw vegetables blended together, but beyond that, almost anything goes. When the thermometer hits 80, don’t turn on the range. Get out the blender instead to create and enjoy something spectacular and nutritious.

Classic Gazpacho with a Door County Twist

Serves 4 

2 – 3 garlic cloves

3 – 4 ripe tomatoes

1 small onion

2 celery ribs

1 cucumber, peeled

1 green pepper, deseeded

1 red or yellow pepper, deseeded

1 or 2 one-inch cubes stale bread 

Splash of red-wine vinegar

2 Tbsp olive oil

Handful of basil, Italian parsley and/or cilantro

Pinch of salt

Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor; blend until the desired consistency. Salt to taste, and place gazpacho in the refrigerator to chill and allow flavors to meld. Can be made a day in advance. Ladle over whitefish (recipe follows).

Wine-Poached Whitefish 

Oil for skillet

1 whitefish fillet

½ cup dry white wine

Pinch of salt

Splash of lemon juice

Place whitefish skin down in a lightly oiled, hot skillet. Add wine and salt. Cover pan and steam fish for three to five minutes over medium-high heat. Remove from heat; add a splash of lemon juice to fish.

Place a chunk of poached whitefish in the bottom of each bowl; ladle soup over fish. 

Garnish options

Hard-boiled eggs, sliced in half

Fresh herbs: basil, parsley and cilantro

Fresh peppers (spicy and sweet), diced


Zippy Green Gazpacho

Serves 4

2 – 3 garlic cloves

Small onions or scallions, with greens left on

1 lb tomatillos, gently roasted

1 cucumber

2 celery ribs

1 yellow bell pepper

1 cup watermelon chunks

1 – 2 one-inch cubes stale bread

Juice of 1 lime

Pinch of salt

Handful of fresh mint

Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor; blend until the desired consistency. Salt to taste, and place gazpacho in the refrigerator to chill and allow flavors to meld. Can be made a day in advance.

Garnish options

Lime sour cream or crème fraîche (recipe follows)

Raw sweet corn, kernels removed from cob

Fresh mango

Hot pepper, diced

Sweet cherry tomatoes, cut into halves


Lime Sour Cream or Crème Fraîche

1 cup sour cream or crème fraîche

Juice of ½ lime

1 tsp lime zest

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate. Make in advance to allow flavors to meld.