This Is The One Step You're Probably Missing When Making Gazpacho

Take your summer soup from good to great.

Bartaco Gazpacho and Three Tacos
Photo: Bartaco

The air is thick and humid and the temperatures are soaring under that Southern summer sun. It's time to beat the heat and give your oven a break by embracing all of the delicious produce that nature provides us over the summer months. What's one of the best meals to showcase your farmers market booty? How does a nice, refreshing, cool gazpacho sound? Delicious right?

Culinary Director for Bartaco, Jonathan Rohland, recently spoke with Southern Living and divulged some secrets on how to make your gazpacho next level delicious.

"The first step is go home grown. Try to find your local farmers market in the area," Chef Rohland said.

"It really truly is about utilizing the best ingredients…you never want to try and make a tomato gazpacho in winter, you'd be crazy. Now that tomatoes are coming into season and you can get local and home grown stuff, that's what's gonna make it great," he continued.

Rohland urges you to hit your local farmers markets or farm stands, even if the tomatoes there aren't quite ripe yet. You can ripen them further at home and those fresh, right from local farmers tomatoes are going to be your best bet.

"The best way to ripen tomatoes is try to find a nice, dry area. {Then} find a cardboard box, lay them out on a towel, that will help absorb some of that moisture and then just let them go for a couple of days until you get that peak ripeness," Rohland explained. He also emphatically pleaded that you should never, ever refrigerate your tomatoes.

"I'm not sure how many people do that but it's a sin in my world, never refrigerate your tomatoes. It changes the cell structure. It changes the flavor profile. You can have beautifully ripe tomatoes and put them in the refrigerator and absolutely just kill what you're going to get out of that tomato."

And now comes the step you may be missing. Rohland and his Bartaco team prepare the vegetables hours in advance, or even overnight and leave them sitting at room temperature.

"We take all the vegetables {that} we use—cucumbers, onions, tomato, fresh tomatoes—and we chop it up. It doesn't really matter how big because you're going to puree it all completely. But we like to add a little bit of salt to it and let it sit overnight. And what happens is, it's a thing called maceration where it really starts to break down the skin and extract the liquid of the vegetables and then when you blend it, it actually comes out a lot smoother," he said.

This extra step is what Rohland says will elevate your gazpacho from good to great.

"It will have that viscosity, that mouth feel and that texture where its not going to be granular and it's smooth and stays on your palate for an extended period of time and you get all of that flavor."

Rohland also prefers sherry vinegar for his gazpacho and that it's worth the splurge on some really good olive oil. Look for "fresh pressed" on the label.

WATCH: Try This Trick To Make Tomatoes Taste Better

Chef also conceded that kitchen tools do make a difference here. Since this is a pureed soup, you will need a kitchen appliance to perform this task, and while it comes with a bit of a hefty price tag, Rohland does recommend using the Vitamix if you have one.

"There is something special about a Vitamix, and what they are able to do is really just takes it to a different level. It almost makes it just like a cream base soup—that feel and that texture—without having any dairy or the fat added to it."

But if you don't have the luxury car of blenders, don't worry. Rohland has suggestions for that too. He says you can use the blender you have but blend for longer—making sure you don't over mix. Mixing too long will create friction and friction will heat the soup, which you don't want. But you can use your blender and then run the soup through a fine mesh strainer, using a spatula to push all of the tomato goodness through, which he says, will still give you that nice texture.

Many recipes will call for you to add water to your pureed vegetables. Rohland says this is the biggest no-no. The water will dilute the flavor of your delicious tomatoes. There is enough liquid in the vegetables themselves. Added water is not necessary.

To elevate your presentation game, Chef suggested adding texture to your finished soup by both folding in vegetables to the soup itself but also by adding garnishes to the top. Some of his favorite choices are croutons, pepitas, and avocados.

One of the best parts about making gazpacho? You can make it ahead of time! That's right fellow time-savers! You can do this the day before your company arrives.

"I think it tastes good the day of but actually it tastes better the next day and it doesn't taste great the third day. Don't be afraid to make it ahead and allow those flavors to meld together," Rohland said. But Chef advises that you give your soup an extra splash of sherry vinegar or another drizzle of olive oil just to brighten it back up.

And while gazpacho typically involves tomatoes, Rohland urges you to not be afraid "to play outside the box of the norms of tomatoes." He explained that gazpacho really is just a chilled soup and that other wonderful summer produce would also be delicious as a base flavor. Some of his suggestions are carrots, tomatillos, or to even go sweet with watermelon.

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