I just finished making gazpacho. PJ and I are having a small dinner party tomorrow night, and our first course will be the gazpacho, which of course needs to be thoroughly chilled. I generally love soups, and Gazpacho is my favorite kind of soup. While PJ isn’t as much of a soup fan as I am, we nevertheless agree on our love for gazpacho — one of the many commonalities that makes our relationship work as well as it does. (Never underestimate the power of a good soup to keep your man happy!)

Because of my deep fondness for chilled tomato soup, I often order it whenever I have the opportunity. As one website points out, “There are about as many gazpacho recipes as there are Spanish cooks.” One of the aspects of traveling that I enjoy is sampling as many of those recipes as I can.

The latest addition to my (metaphorical) gazpacho journal occurred while we were in Paris. On our first day there, we stopped for lunch in a little cafe called the Cafe-philo des Phares on the Place de la Bastille. I immediately noticed my favorite appetizer on their menu and ordered it. I should note that my gazpacho tasting has become a kind of hobby — kind of like people who are wine connoisseurs. I want to experience the different varieties available to me but I also want to evaluate and rank them.

The best gazpacho I’ve ever had was in Michigan while PJ lived there for a year. He took me to Kruse and Muer, and we quickly fell in love with their soup. (I also had a great shepherd’s pie at a different restaurant in Michigan, but that’s a different blog entry!) I prefer a balance between the tomato broth and the chunky vegetables. The Michigan gazpacho was perfectly balanced in its quotient of broth to tomatoes to cucumber. (The cucumber is key for me.) I also like a bit of tanginess, which I now know if achieved by using the right amount of lemon juice.

I also had a couple of different gazpachos while we were in Spain two years ago. Our first lunch in Madrid also featured gazpacho, so it’s becoming my little traveling tradition to order gazpacho for my first meal. In Spain, the trick was figuring out whether you wanted to waiter to add vegetables to the tomato base — I didn’t understand what the first waiter was asking me so I did it myself. (I still crimson over with embarrassment when I recall my dining faux pas!)

I now make gazpacho a few times a year during the summer months. Each one comes out differently, since I experiment with different amounts of this and that. Tomorrow’s soup, for example, won’t have any cumin in it, since we’ve run out. I’ve also learned that I like the tomatoes to be pureed (though PJ likes them chopped — we compromise and leave a few chopped up for him). I top it off with low fat sour cream.

The Parisian gazpacho was unlike any other I’ve ever had. It tasted exactly like gazpacho should but it was only broth. The chef had clearly strained the soup through a cheese cloth (or something similar), leaving only the broth, which was almost clear. It was delicious, but I really like the texture of the vegetables in my soup not just the residue of flavor suggesting that they were once there.

The worst gazpacho I’ve ever had was all pureed — all of the vegetables had been put in a blender (or processor) and blended until the entire soup had the consistency of mush. Gazpacho shouldn’t (in my opinion) be mush. It just ruins the whole experience. It turns out I’ve rather have gazpacho broth than gazpacho mush!

Hopefully, our guests like the soup. I’m pretty sure I would be completely fine with any or all of them not liking any other aspect of the dinner, but if they don’t like my gazpacho I’ll be torn between the shame of making a bad soup (if that’s the problem) and the disdain of their bad taste (the more likely culprit). I don’t think I could stay friends with someone who insults my gazpacho!

Now I just wish I had better soup bowls — besides a gazpacho fetish, I suffer from a glassware and bowls mania.

Bon appetite!