When Andrew and I were in Portugal last month, we went on a wonderful picnic. It was part of an optional shore excursion offered by Viking on our 10-day Douro River Cruise. We left the ship and traveled high up into the hills to the tiny village of Marialva. There we were met by Paulo Romao, proprietor and picnic host, who, with his wife Carmen, built Casas do Coro, a remarkable resort atop the hill. We would visit the resort after our lunch. First, our group of 15 climbed aboard a truck and headed to the Romao’s own Olive Orchard in the valley. Lanterns hung from the trees, and tables were set under them the olive trees. A long buffet table was filled with remarkable food—Portuguese specialties like Cod en Croute, Orzo Salad, and for dessert, a Bolo de chocolate, a recipe made famous by Paulo and Carmen’s daughter Ana Rita when she appeared as a contestant on Master Chef Junior Portugal.
Long before dessert, I spied two icy cold bottles labeled “Gazpacho” on ice in a bucket at the end of the table. I was intrigued by the color and then overwhelmed by the flavor. A burst of flavor that defied my expectations. Not nearly as tomato-ey as the gazpacho I was familiar with, this version had far more bell pepper flavor. There was hint of cucumber, a little onion, and then vinegar, and olive oil. I couldn’t wait to make it at home. When I found a recipe as a starting off point for my soup, I was surprised. This is not a true gazpacho at all. It’s missing a key ingredient that will delight all my gluten-free friends. And that ingredient is bread.
Gapzacho has ancient roots on the Iberian peninsula. It’s said to have been brought there by the Romans who introduced a version made with bread, olive oil, water and garlic to which vinegar was later added. The earliest versions were devoid of tomatoes which were only added in the 19th century when the fruit was brought from the New World to the old. However, once tomatoes were added, the soup’s recipe spread far and wide. I found a highly breaded Gazpacho recipe in Jean Anderson’s “The Food of Portugal” (William Morrow 1994). Bread is used in Portugal as a thickener, most prominently in recipes for “Açorda”. We’d eaten the most famous version, Shrimp Açorda, in Lisbon. An astonishing amount of bread is mixed with garlic, coriander, olive oil, shrimp and then an egg is incorporated at the last moment. The dish is amazingly rich. The version of Gazpacho in Ms. Anderson’s book was just as bread-y. The Gazpacho on our picnic was not. It was smooth and creamy—despite their being no bread in it. It was an ideal cooler on hot summer days. There may be only a few of these left in our part of the country. But I’ll keep making it as long as summer lasts. Here is the recipe and right after it, a link to my article about our entire Viking Douro River cruise from Avid Cruiser…
Tomato and Red Pepper Gazpacho Inspired by Costo do Coro, Marialva, Portugal
A Portuguese take on Gazpacho, this recipe uses no bread and makes a superb soup filled with flavor.
- 2 red bell peppers,
- 5 large ripe tomatoes (about 2 pounds)
- 2 cups chopped peeled English cucumber
- 1/2 cup chopped green onion
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons Sherry Wine vinegar (Vinaigre de Jerez)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large garlic clove, smashed
- Finishing Salt as garnish to taste
- Step 1 Preheat broiler to high.
- Step 2 Cut bell peppers in half lengthwise. Discard seeds and membranes. Place pepper halves, cut sides down, on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet, flattening peppers with the palm of your hand. Broil 10 minutes or until peppers are blackened. Remove pan from oven, and wrap peppers in aluminum foil. Let stand 10 minutes. Peel. Dice roasted peppers, then place in a blender.
- Step 3 Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Core 5 tomatoes, and score the bottoms in an X shape with the tip of a paring knife. Add tomatoes to boiling water. Boil 1 minute. Drain and plunge tomatoes into ice water. Let stand 3 minutes. Peel tomatoes, discarding skins.Coarsely chop.
- Step 4 Add chopped tomatoes, cucumber, and next 6 ingredients to blender. Process until smooth. Pour mixture into a bowl. Cover and chill at least 2 hours.
- Step 5 Serve in glasses with a splash of olive oil and dusting of finishing salt.