White Gazpacho (adapted from Buen Provecho, New Jersey, 1995)

White Gazpacho is a make-ahead chilled soup perfect for a sweaty summer evening.   This particular recipe is one of two White Gazpacho recipes in Buen Provecho: 500 Years of Hispanic Cuisine (1995), a community cookbook compiled by a group of Hispanic AT&T employees.  Both versions were submitted by the same employee and are, fundamentally, cucumber soups with a dairy base.  This is the lighter of the two, built on cultured buttermilk rather than sour cream.

My first encounter with gazpacho come from “Lisa the Vegetarian”, a mid-1990s episode of the Simpsons.  The episode details Lisa’s conversion to a vegetarian diet, and guest stars Paul and Linda McCartney.  My favorite scene in the episode takes place at a Simpson family barbecue, where Lisa tries to entice attendees to choose gazpacho over meat.  Her elevator pitch isn’t very convincing:  “It’s tomato soup, served ice cold”.  She’s met first with laughter, after which Barney tells her to “Go back to Russia”.   While the episode itself is bullish on vegetarianism, its depiction of gazpacho isn’t terribly flattering.

These days most Americans are familiar with this tomato-based gazpacho.  Originally a Spanish/Andalusian dish, red gazpacho is no longer confined to tapas restaurants and Junior League swim parties.   In all honesty I’m not a fan.  I appreciate the idea, but most red gazpacho tastes like I’m drinking cheap salsa.  Any more than a shot glass and anything less than ice cold and I find it downright unpleasant.  In my neck of the woods it seems trendy to add watermelon or honeydew, which is a dramatic improvement.  I’m also a fan of my spouse’s black-bean gazpacho salad, which retains the bright, crispy fresh vegetables but moves past the salsa vibe.

White Gazpacho still has a tart gazpacho vibe, but has a light cream base – very different from Lisa’s ice cold tomato soup.  It retains the fresh and crunchy vegetables, but swaps tomatoes for neutral-colored cucumber and white onions. The tartness of cultured buttermilk, helped along by a little bit of vinegar and lime juice, maintains the acidity from the original dish, rounded out with the sharp bite of garlic, scallions, and a healthy dose of fresh dill.    It’s also very different from other “white gazpacho” recipes I’ve found, which are usually riffs on Spanish ajoblanco.  This alternate white gazpacho is also a chilled soup, but is made from bread and almonds.

Preparation is straightforward.  It requires a fair amount of chopping but not a lot of precision, in that most of the ingredients will face the blade of a hand blender.  The vegetables and aromatics are seeded and coarsely chopped, then mixed with stock and buttermilk.  A couple of quick pulses with the hand blender break down the cucumber, adding body to the soup but leaving coarse chunks behind.   After blending a heavy hand of chopped dill is stirred in for good measure.  Toss in the fridge overnight, and you’ve got a refreshing palate cleanser for the next day’s meal.

The end result is refreshing but needs help.  In the same way that red gazpacho can feel like drinking salsa, White Gazpacho can feel like drinking dip.  After the first few bites my family branded it “tzatziki soup”, and they’re not far off.   The key to fixing the soup was a squeeze of fresh lime, which gave it some acidity and depth and made it feel more like soup than a condiment.   I served White Gazpacho as the vegetable/salad course for a Mexican dinner of grilled meat, rice, and beans.  It would also work well for a light lunch, with a ham sandwich or BLT.   It’s not the best chilled soup in my repertoire, but it’s a good result for relatively little effort.  Enjoy!

White Gazpacho (adapted from Buen Provecho, New Jersey, 1995)

  • Preparation: 25 min
  • Ready in: 8 h 25 min
  • For: 6 cups
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Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Mix chopped cucumbers, chicken stock, buttermilk, garlic, and scallions in a large bowl. Pulse a couple of times with a hand blender until the texture resembles a chunky salsa.
  2. Stir in the dill and vinegar. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
  3. Refrigerate overnight to let flavors mellow.
  4. Serve in small cups garnished with dill flowers and with a lime wedge on the side. Squeeze in the juice from the lime immediately before serving.

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