California Gazpacho

July 14, 2014

Every week, we’re unearthing Heirloom Recipes -- dishes that have made their way from one generation's kitchen to the next.

Today: Melina Hammer of Licking the Plate makes her favorite childhood gazpacho recipe.

Shop the Story

I never understood what made this gazpacho particularly Californian. I was raised in Detroit by parents with California roots, so perhaps it was simply a final distinguishing flourish of the recipe. I do know that it was one of my favorite summertime dishes. Our whole family loved this gazpacho, and it has stood the test of time, earning its place as a favorite, year after year. My brother and I used to eagerly wait at our enamel kitchen table -- the kind with the pull-out leaves for when company came over -- for our mother to spoon the gazpacho into bowls and bring us the shiny, crunchy medley. Marinated overnight in the fridge, the flavors grew on each other until it was officially ready to be devoured.

There's no cooking to be done, so if you can bear with the chopping -- and I prefer this method over the food processor, because you have more control over the beauty of the finished product -- then you'll be greatly rewarded when all is done. If worse comes to worst, pour yourself a glass of crisp, chilled wine to keep you company as you patiently fill your serving bowl with colorful produce confetti.

Use the freshest vegetables you can find -- if you can, go with heirloom varieties from your local farmers market. You'll love the full-flavored, richly textured results. Though she claims it isn't authentic, my mom happily served this gazpacho with a dollop of sour cream, which is how I recommend you do it, too. 

California Gazpacho

Serves 6 to 8

6 tomatoes (preferably heirlooms) 
3 to 4 small kirby cucumbers (preferably organic) 
1 medium sweet onion
1 green pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup good olive oil
1/4 cup good red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cup tomato passata
Your favorite hot pepper sauce
Sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
Sour cream

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.  

Listen Now

On our new weekly podcast, two friends separated by the Atlantic take questions and compare notes on everything from charcuterie trends to scone etiquette.

Listen Now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Jenny
  • Mar Pom
    Mar Pom
  • trixie
  • eniacpx
  • claireinaustin
Melina is the author of 'A Year at Catbird Cottage' with Ten Speed Press. She grows an heirloom and pollinator garden and forages wild foods at her namesake Hudson Valley getaway, Catbird Cottage. Melina loves serving curated menus for guests from near and far seeking community amidst the hummingbirds, grosbeaks, finches, and the robust flavors of the seasons.


Jenny September 19, 2015
This is a lovely gazpacho recipe that reminds me of how my mom used to make it when I was young. She is also from California. I didn't have access to Passata, so I made my own using two tomatoes that blanched, deseeded and puréed. Used a jalapeño and topped with a green Harissa. Delicious way to use up the last of summer veggies. Thanks for sharing!
Melina H. September 19, 2015
Oh how lovely. Thanks for sharing such a sweet comment! Your resourcefulness re: the passata makes sense. YUM on the harissa - woman after my own heart!
Mar P. October 11, 2014
That must be a mix between salsa and something else.
Gazpacho is always liquid and smooth. And please, please, no diary on it.
Gazpacho is a poor man's soup, what peasants had for lunch in the awfully hot summers of Andalucía.
trixie July 16, 2014
It's probably called California gazpacho because it's really nothing like Spanish gazpacho---except for some of the ingredients. A really trad, old school gazpacho would have nothing but some bread soaked in water, pureed with cucumber, really ripe tomatoes, a little garlic, some vinegar, olive oil & salt. It's pretty thin (the little old ladies would even push it all through a sieve, though I think that's overkill) & you might garnish it with chopped veg, but they aren't the main bit. All that said, yours looks yummy and I can't wait to try it.
Melina H. July 16, 2014
That makes perfect sense. I recall traditional gazpacho recipes, and yes, the puree, sieving, etc. sounds about right. Et voila the Cali version, all nice and salsa-y… I hope you make this and love it!
eniacpx July 16, 2014
Any vegan subs for sour cream? Other than fake sour cream. :) Plain coconut yogurt is a good stand-in when baking, but I am not sure how it would hold up in a raw dish such as this. Do you usually swirl it in in, or just grab a small amount with each bite?
Melina H. July 16, 2014
I don't really know. The tangy quality, in addition to the creaminess, is what makes the sour cream a good fit. I am not familiar with coconut yogurt! Is it sweet? Maybe silken tofu puree-ed with a touch of lemon juice (even a tin hint of soy, maybe) and then refrigerated so that it firms a bit…?
claireinaustin July 14, 2014
I've never used tomato passata before. do most grocery stores have it?
Melina H. July 14, 2014
Better groceries often do. I don't like to waste a trip, so call in advance. And before leaving home, google brands so that you can even ask about if they carry them. I used the brand Bionaturae and found it at Whole Foods. Hope that helps!
AntoniaJames July 14, 2014
Such an evocative, descriptive name. And the sour cream seems an excellent idea, too, as I bet it takes the edge off all that acidity. Nice. ;o)
Melina H. July 14, 2014
Thanks Antonia! That sour cream (you could use greek yogurt too) does exactly that. Also a good foil to the heat produced from the hot sauce….