Thermostats all across the US are getting quite the workout this summer, so I hear. It is hot out there. Muggy, steamy, stifling hot. And while I can’t say I’m exactly envious of sweltering heat waves, as of last week this San Franciscan was getting just a wee bit weary of grey skies and cool temperatures. (There are places on the Canadian border that are warmer than my fair city right now.)
I really don’t like to complain about weather (of all the things to fret over, this should be low on everybody’s list), I swear. But I’d really like a little of that heat, please. A little more sunshine. A little more summer.
The fog, wouldn’t you know it, hasn’t quite cooperated with my request. No matter. If they can build a ski resort in Dubai, why not the other way around? I can engineer some summer! I’ve jacked the heat up to a PG&E-is-gonna-love-me-for-this setting, stripped down to a tank top, put on some bouncy island music and made a big batch of gazpacho. And you know what? It’s pretty much worked. Summertime!
Now, maybe gazpacho’s not your thing. I get it. I’m a bit of a latecomer to the party, myself. The idea of a cold, purèed vegetable soup took a bit of getting used to. It just seemed so exceedingly healthy, an anemic lunch for soul-dampened Jazzercisers and ascetic health nuts, but not for me. (Who needs that many vitamins in one meal anyway?)
It took one trip to Spain’s sun-drenched Costa del Sol a few years ago to make my official conversion to a full-fledged gazpacho fan. (There is only so much jamón serrano a girl can eat, it turns out.) How on earth could I have been so wrong about this soup? The vibrant intensity of the flavor! The gorgeous texture! On the beach and under the Andalusian sun, gazpacho suddenly made sense: a cooling, sun-kissed amalgam of summer-ripened tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers. Herbs, cayenne, garlic and a grassy splash of olive oil had merged and mingled together until it was impossible to tease out one separate flavor from the other. This was no wallflower soup, as I’d assumed: it was voluptuous and vital, shaking her hips and stamping her feet to flamenco.
So maybe you’re also in need of a little extra summer. Maybe, if you’re elsewhere in the country, you’re in need of some serious cooling off. In either case, I recommend you give this gazpacho a try. Twenty minutes of prep, no actual cooking and plenty of time for a siesta while the flavors get acquainted in the fridge: fit for a lazy summer day, indeed. Olé!
serves about six
adapted from Mollie Katzen’s The New Moosewood Cookbook
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 C yellow onion, finely chopped
- juice from 1/2 lemon
- juice from 1 lime
- 2 Tbsp wine vinegar (preferably sherry)
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- healthy pinch of cayenne
- 3 Tbsp good-quality olive oil
- 1 medium cucumber, seeded and diced (reserve 1/2 C)
- 1 medium red bell pepper
- 1 1/2 C seeded tomato, diced (reserve 1 C)
- 1/2 C bread crumbs
- 3 1/2 C tomato juice
- 1 Tbsp fresh basil, minced
- 1/4 C flat leaf parsley, minced
- optional: pinch of ground cumin, 1 tsp Tabasco (I especially like the smoky Chipotle flavor here)
Place first eight ingredients into a food processor and pulse for 10 seconds. Add 1/2 C cucumber, red bell pepper, 1/2 C tomato and pulse to break down vegetables without purèeing completely. In a large bowl, combine processed vegetables with remaining ingredients. Stir to combine.
Chill for at least one hour and up to two days (the soup is better the longer it rests). Taste and adjust salt, pepper and cayenne as needed before serving.
Note: if you prefer a finer-textured soup, process each vegetable separately and stir to combine. (Breaking down the soup all at once will incorporate too much air and turn it a less palatable pink.)