The better tomatoes you use the better your gazpacho will be. Juicy tomatoes like plum tomatoes, or any other of the kind used for sauce, work best. Good tomatoes are the most important ingrediente, followed by good olive oil.
Put the bread to soak in 2 cups of water in a large pot. Wash the tomatoes, chop them roughly -no need to peel them- and add to the pot with the bread.
Peel and roughly chop the cucumber. Wash, cut stem, discard seeds and roughly chop the pepper. Add to the pot as you chop. Add the garlic, olive oil and salt.
Use a hand held blender to liquidize the vegetables right in the pot. No need to process by batches or extra clean up.
Strain the puree through a coarse sieve into a soup bowl. A food mill with a coarse bottom will also do. All tomato seeds and skin will be left in the sieve. Your gazpacho will be a smooth puree. Cover and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour, best 2 hours. Check seasoning before serving.
Dice finely some tomato, green pepper and peeled cucumber for garnish. Other popular garnishes are bread, in small cubes, finely chopped onion or chopped hard-boiled egg. Present garnishes in separate bowls, or a tray with divisions, and a serving spoon. Everyone can choose their favorite garnish or combination.
We like to use only salt, but you can add black pepper to your taste. Other herbs and spices can be added, cumin or paprika are the ones we like best. From the herbs, probably basil, some people like coriander, either fresh chopped leaves or ground.
If there is no time to chill the gazpacho, add ice cubes, though you might find the taste too strong; the strong garlic flavor mellows when gazpacho is let to chill.
If you are desperate for a chilled soup but there are no fresh tomatoes at hand, use tomato juice or pasatta; tomato puree or canned tomato are not recommended.
You can become pretty creative with your recipe. Add 1 Tbs or more of good quality white or red wine vinegar. Balsamic or herb vinegar is not usually a good choice.
Add a little onions to the soup. Chopped onion can also be used as garnish.
Add or substitute vegetables, add carrot or lettuce. Substitute tomatoes for watermelon, season with salt and black pepper. Substitute cucumber and green pepper for grilled vegetables. We like green peppers, but use red, orange or yellow peppers.
Be creative with the garnishes as well... Try croutons, basil leaves, chopped olives, or tiny bits of salted anchovies?
Gazpacho very likely originated when the Romans were in Spain, and it was given a name by the Arabs or Hebrews. Gazpachos have been around Andalusia for ages, though initially were no more than bread, water, olive oil, garlic, vinegar, and a little salt. Initially, gazpacho was white. The exotic tomatoes and peppers were added some centuries later, when they arrived from the New World.
Gazpacho was chunky, with broken-up pieces of bread and diced vegetables, evolving to thick and coarse during the mortar and pestle era, until the arrival of food mills and blenders, the classic gazpacho did not become the red, creamy soup it is today.