A Summer Tradition That's as American as Gazpacho
Through an iconic cold soup, star chef José Andrés discovers deep roots that connect his Spanish heritage with his Washington, D.C., home.
Sunday mornings in the summertime, I absolutely love going to the farmers market. I go early enough to speak with the farmers—some of them I've known for years—and I also know that the best produce will be sold out if I get there too late. I wake up my three daughters to come along; they're still sleepy as we get in the car to got to Dupont Circle, where the Freshfarm market has been every week since we first lived in the neighborhood many years ago. This time of year, the bounty of the market is amazing; aromatic peaches, juicy watermelons, and all the local produce that makes D.C. a wonderful food city.
We hit my favorite vegetable stand and smell the crisp green cucumbers and the ripe heavy heirloom tomatoes. My daughter Carlota tells me she thinks these must be the ripest, most perfect tomatoes in the world—they smell so much sweeter than the hothouse tomatoes in December. We pick out produce for the week, and of course we get ingredients for gazpacho. My wife, Patricia (aka Tichi), has a recipe that is our family favorite, and even though we know it by heart, just for fun I go to my library to look at a gazpacho recipe written in 1824 by Mary Randolph. I found it when I bought her first-edition cookbook, The Virginia Housewife, and It blew my mind—a soup I have forever known to be Spanish, written in one of the first American cookbooks. Randolph's recipe calls for fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, pepper, salt, onions, and stewed tomatoes. It's different from Tichi's, but it's always incredible to me to think about our shared culinary legacies. All around the world, we share food, culture, and history.
On a hot summer day, it's good we don't have to turn on the stove to make the soup. Instead, we put it all in a blender—tomatoes, cucumbers, bell pepper, some good sherry, a healthy splash of Spanish olive oil. A quick blend and it's done, into a pitcher in the fridge. Now it's time to enjoy the rest of the day outside, kicking around a football, with glasses of cold gazpacho waiting on us. It's not a sit-down dish for us, but a standing one, a salad in a glass. This is summertime in my home, the same as my wife's growing up, and maybe even the same as Mary Randolph's almost 200 years ago, just down the road in Virginia.
High-quality olive oil will make a big difference here. You can find Spanish extra-virgin olive oil at reasonable prices at Trader Joe's, but any flavorful variety you have on hand will work.