What We’re Cooking This Week: Tomatillo Gazpacho

As in Spain, this gazpacho is meant to be drunk from a glass.

Jim Dixon wrote about food for WW for more than 20 years, but these days most of his time is spent at his olive oil-focused specialty food business Wellspent Market. Jim’s always loved to eat, and he encourages his customers to cook by sending them recipes every week through his newsletter. We’re happy to have him back creating some special dishes just for WW readers.

A couple of years ago, I saw some tomatillo starts at the local gardening store and impulsively bought some to plant in our driveway garden, which is on the south side of the house and gets more sun than our partially shaded backyard.

Now, I’m a lazy gardener. I like to plant something, water it, and eventually get something to eat. The tomatillos did well in the driveway, even if they did require a little more attention to keep the fast-growing nightshades from falling over. And the plants produced a lot of fruit, so I found myself with lots of tomatillos. I mostly roasted them for various versions of chile verde and green salsa, at least until I used them to make gazpacho.

The word “gazpacho” likely comes from the Arabic expression for “soaked bread,” a nod to the earliest Roman versions made by pounding old bread with olive oil, vinegar and garlic, then thinning the paste with water to make it drinkable. Tomatoes came along a thousand years later, and a few more centuries brought refrigeration, leading to the cold soup that most of us consider gazpacho.

The Spanish call it by a few other names, mostly depending on what’s in it. Ajo blanco uses garlic and almonds but no tomatoes, while salmorejo has roughly the same ingredients but is smooth where traditional gazpacho leans chunky. Ever since I read this Julia Moskin article a few years ago about the version made in Andalusia—a smooth, emulsified one that uses a lot of olive oil—it’s the only gazpacho I make, except that I often use something besides tomatoes.

Peaches and melon make great gazpacho, either on their own or paired with tomatoes. But I was looking at my tomatillo harvest and thought they might work, too. Of course, I’m not the first person to put tomatillos in gazpacho, but the recipes online often include a lot of other stuff, from cilantro to avocado. Taking my lead from the Spanish purists Moskin talked to, I stuck with the original formula: tomatillos (instead of tomatoes), onion, garlic, green pepper and cucumber blitzed with a splash of good vinegar and a lot of olive oil. As in Spain, this gazpacho is meant to be drunk from a glass.

Tomatillo Gazpacho

2 pounds tomatillos, husks removed and sticky coating rinsed off

1 small sweet onion (about the size of a tennis ball; use half of a larger onion)

1 cucumber, preferably an English or Persian style*

1 Anaheim chile or similar thin-skinned, not-too-spicy green pepper**

1-2 cloves garlic

1/2 teaspoon kosher-style sea salt

1 tablespoon sherry or other good vinegar

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4-1/2 cup water, as needed

*If you have a thick-skinned slicing cuke, peel it.

**2-3 shishito or padron peppers would work, but any thin-skinned pepper is preferable to a green bell pepper.

Cut the vegetables into chunks that will fit into your blender (depending on how big it is, you may have to make smaller batches then mix them together). Put the softer tomatillos in the blender first, then add the rest of the vegetables, the salt and the vinegar. A splash of water will help everything blend together.

Blend until smooth, then add the olive oil while the motor is running. I like gazpacho to be drinkable, so I add cold water to thin it a little. You can also add ice water at the table if preferred. But make sure it’s very cold or add an ice cube.

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