The term gazpacho describes a chilled soup, but is also used to describe a type of salad of Spanish origin. Many credit the Moors with its invention. Often, when people think of this soup, they think of a tomato-based dish that may have bell peppers and cilantro added for flavoring. However, tomatoes and peppers are both New World foods, and evidence of gazpacho predates European contact with these vegetables. What we now mainly think of as gazpacho is a variant on a much older recipe.
The earliest recipes may also be referred to as ajo blanco, or white gazpacho. It is a creamy soup containing ground almonds, cucumbers, yogurt and garlic. The addition of yogurt and almonds make this soup much higher in protein than tomato-based versions. Since the soup was served chilled, it would have been very refreshing under the hot sun of the Moorish climates. White gazpacho is easy to prepare, and almost resembles a pico de gallo salsa in consistency since most recipes recommend straining the soup. It could be served with chunks of fresh bread to soak up any liquids.
Green gazpacho is another variant that may have been in existence prior to the introduction of tomatoes to Spain. Rather than tomatoes, the soup relies on spinach, lettuce, parsley and other greens to give a unique green color to the soup. This variety is an excellent soup for dieters, or for those wishing to add more vegetables to their diet. A serving for four can have as much as 4 cups (30 grams) of lettuce and spinach. It contains yogurt and chicken broth as well, and often relies on mint for additional flavor. This chilled variant, thought to have originated in Andalusia, is both filling and refreshing.
Red or tomato-based gazpacho has numerous recipes. The tomatoes can be blended or crushed to create almost a smooth vegetable juice, or they can be finely diced to add more texture and make the soup more salad-like. Red gazpacho may as well have a few sweet peppers added, and may include cucumber. Unlike white or green gazpacho, the soup tends not to contain yogurt, which can separate easily due to the acidity in the tomatoes. It also usually does not have chicken broth, though this can easily be added.
Traditional gazpacho is usually flavored with cumin, a spice beloved in the Middle East and in South America. In the US, red gazpacho is often flavored with cilantro, which pairs nicely with the pepper and tomato flavors. A sprig of cilantro and a dollop of sour cream can give this dish a pleasant and simple presentation, and again, the health benefits are excellent. The soup is traditionally served with toasted bread, but would also be excellent accompanied by warmed fresh tortillas or tortilla chips
Shoppers can also find canned Spanish gazpacho in specialty food stores or on the Internet. Preparation of any variety of gazpacho is quick, however, and it does not require cooking time. Additionally, the canned versions can never replace the quality of the freshly prepared soup.