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Anne Braly

The heat of summer is the perfect time to think about soup. Not hot soup, but cold. And when I think about cold soup, gazpacho quickly comes to mind. It has a complexity of flavors, but it's so simple to prepare, it's almost child's play.

I remember falling in love with it the first time I tried it in high school. Summer tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers — it's the ultimate summer standby that works in a bowl as well as a cup.

Gazpacho is the perfect lunch for summer, both filling and cooling during the heat of the day, or as a quick and cooling dinner at night. Either way — as a soup or a drink — you have a fresh-from-the-garden mixture that you can make a day ahead and forget about it until it's time to serve.

Really, deciding on its texture is perhaps the hardest part of making gazpacho. If you like it chunky, pulse the ingredients in a food processor. If you like it smooth, a blender works just fine.

Many recipes call for using tomato juice instead of fresh tomatoes. But as a summer soup, why use juice from a can? Tomatoes are plentiful this time of year — so abundant you'll soon be gifting neighbors with baskets full of tomatoes before too terribly long. Instead, why not whip up a batch of gazpacho and gift them with a jar or two and a loaf of crusty bread? Gazpacho and good bread are the ubiquitous vegetarian meal — and we can all benefit going meatless once a week.

Summertime Gazpacho

4 large vine-ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced

1 medium cucumber, peeled and finely diced (plus slices for garnish)

1/2 cup finely diced red bell pepper

1/4 cup minced green onion

1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 pinch dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 pint fresh cherry tomatoes

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 lime, juiced

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil (for garnish)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, green onion, jalapeno and garlic in large bowl. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt, cumin, oregano, cayenne and black pepper to taste. Set aside.

Place cherry tomatoes, olive oil, lime juice, balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce in a blender. Cover and puree until smooth. Pour mixture through a strainer into the tomato-cucumber mixture, stirring to combine. Place 1/3 of the mixture in a food processor, and puree until pretty smooth, then return to the original mixture. Stir to combine. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours. Taste for seasonings before serving, adding more salt and pepper, if needed.

Note: If serving this as a drink, process the entire mixture in batches in a blender until smooth. Serve in glasses garnished with cucumber slices and fresh ribbons of basil.

Contact Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com.

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