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5 Tips for the Perfect Grilled Gazpacho

Your gazpacho lives by the quality of the vegetables--garden or farm stand tomatoes, sweet onions (preferably with dirt still on the roots), local peppers--well, you get the idea. Do not, I repeat, do not refrigerate the tomatoes.
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Photo by Richard Dallett.

For years, I've relied on a simple remedy from the garden to beat the heat--a sort of a cross between a cold soup and salad. The Spanish call it gazpacho. I call it the most refreshing soup on Planet Barbecue.

Planet Barbecue? Yes, because when you sip gazpacho at my house, it makes a stop between the farm stand and the blender. Sometimes I grill the veggies--tomatoes, peppers, onion, garlic, cucumbers, etc.--over a screaming hot wood fire. The idea is to char the surface to impart a smoke flavor, while leaving the vegetables essentially raw in the center.

Alternatively, I blast the veggies with wood smoke in a cold smoker, offset barrel smoker, or even with a handheld smoker--just long enough to add a whisper of smoke, but not so long you cook them.

I often call smoke the "umami" of barbecue. It adds an unexpected dimension of flavor--without overpowering the pristine freshness of garden vegetables.

Here are 5 techniques to help you take grilled or smoked gazpacho over the top.

  1. Your gazpacho lives by the quality of the vegetables--garden or farm stand tomatoes, sweet onions (preferably with dirt still on the roots), local peppers--well, you get the idea. Do not, I repeat, do not refrigerate the tomatoes.

  • When grilling the vegetables, work over a wood fire or a charcoal or gas fire enhanced by wood chips.
  • To keep small vegetables, like cloves of garlic, from falling through the gaps in the grill grate, skewer them on toothpicks. Alternatively, use a grill basket.
  • To keep onions from falling apart on the grill, cut them into quarters or sixths through the stem ends (keep the stems intact) and skewer each with a toothpick.
  • Grill peppers whole, then cut the flesh off the core. Alternatively, grill them caveman-style--directly on the embers. The smoke flavor will astonish you.
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    Steven Raichlen is the author of the Barbecue! Bible cookbook series and the host of Primal Grill on PBS. His web site is BarbecueBible.com.