While everyone else has been getting excited about fall, publishing recipes with pumpkin and apples and cranberries, I’ve been desperately holding on to summer. Not only do I just plain like being warm, but I didn’t get my fill of summer produce this year. I only ate corn on the cob one time – just one! I’m a disgrace. And I can never get enough of flavorful seasonal tomatoes.
Gazpacho, to me, is the quintessential summer dish, putting the spotlight on tomatoes, with cucumbers and peppers singing backup. I served this gazpacho to a friend of mine from Spain, and he said that it was as good as any gazpacho he’d had over there. This is good stuff.
I’ve always been a big fan of traditional hot tomato soup, and I didn’t understand the allure of gazpacho when I was young – cold tomato soup? Yuck. But gazpacho made correctly isn’t anything like a smooth tomato soup. I like gazpacho to have more in common with salad than soup. That means that the vegetables have to be chopped by hand instead of in the food processor. It takes more time, but it’s worth it to eat real gazpacho instead of the vegetable smoothie that you’d end up with if you used the food processor.
Another great aspect of gazpacho is that it lasts for several days in the fridge. And it’s absolutely healthy, so it makes a really good snack. I love to keep some around for when I get home from work and I’m starving and dinner won’t be ready for a while.
Right after I finished dicing the vegetables for this, I inhaled deeply – it was pure summer. I felt better about letting the season go and moving into fall once I had made a batch of gazpacho. But don’t expect to see pumpkin recipes here for a while!
Gazpacho (from Cooks Illustrated)
CI note: Welch’s and Fresh Samantha’s are our favorite brands of tomato juice for this recipe — not too thick, with a bright, lively flavor. This recipe makes a large quantity because the leftovers are so good, but it can be halved if you prefer. Traditionally, diners garnish their gazpacho with more of the same diced vegetables that are in the soup, so cut some extra vegetables when you prepare those called for in the recipe. Additional garnish possibilities include simple garlic croutons, chopped pitted black olives, chopped hard-cooked eggs, and finely diced avocados. For a finishing touch, serve in chilled bowls.
Bridget note: I’ve found that the brand of tomato juice is extremely important. I’m never been able to find Welch’s or Samantha’s tomato juice, but Campbell’s works fine. And I never use ice cubes, I just add 1 cup of cold water.
Makes about 3 quarts, serving 8 to 10
3 ripe medium beefsteak tomatoes (about 1½ pounds), cored and cut into ¼-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
2 medium red bell peppers (about 1 pound), cored, seeded, and cut into slices, then into ¼-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
2 small cucumbers (about 1 pound), one peeled and the other with skin on, both seeded and cut into ¼-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
½ small sweet onion (such as Vidalia, Maui, or Walla Walla) or 2 large shallots, peeled and minced (about ½ cup)
2 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons table salt
⅓ cup sherry vinegar
ground black pepper
5 cups tomato juice
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (optional)
8 ice cubes
extra-virgin olive oil for serving
1. Combine the tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, onions, garlic, salt, vinegar, and pepper in a large (at least 4-quart) nonreactive bowl. Let stand until the vegetables just begin to release their juices, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato juice, hot pepper sauce, if using, and ice cubes. Cover tightly and refrigerate to blend flavors, at least 4 hours and up to 2 days.
2. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper and remove and discard any unmelted ice cubes. Serve cold, drizzling each portion with about 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil and topping with the desired garnishes, (see top note).