Cool and refreshing, a bowl of chunky gazpacho loaded with fresh veggies is the perfect light meal or starter on a hot summer day. Plus, it's an easy make-ahead! (Skip to recipe.)
On these hot days I often don't feel like cooking - do you?
I just want to plop down on the porch swing and have someone serve me a big bowl of salad they've made for me, or maybe pass me the tub of ice cream and a spoon. And then after that they'll hand me a tall, cool drink tinkling with ice, and fetch me that book from my night table I've been meaning to read. Oh, and they'll stand behind me and fan me gently with a big palm leaf . . .
Ahhhh, fantasy. One can dream.
Reality: I've got every fan in the house blowing, my kitchen is a mess, the garden needs weeding, there are buckets of saskatoons in the downstairs fridge waiting to be juiced, windows are filthy, the recycling bin is overflowing, we've got guests arriving in a week and no baking or prepared meals in the freezer, and the water filtration system just sprung a leak and needs instant repair.
But I did get a big batch of gazpacho made and it's chilling in the fridge. If I serve it in fancy little cups out on the deck, surrounded by my beautifully blooming flowerpots, and listen to the rustle of the breeze in the trees . . . and squint my eyes so the weeds look like pretty greenery in the distance . . . and don't think about the chaos in the kitchen, life is really pretty good.
I love having a few quarts of fresh, zesty gazpacho handy in the fridge - it's like the essence of summer stored in a jar - a liquid salad full of the garden's best bounty. Plus it's just the greatest treat to serve as a quick appetizer or light lunch when I don't feel much like cooking. I've served it to people who told me afterwards that they'd thought the idea of a cold soup was revolting, but were totally converted by this light and fresh gazpacho. They even asked for the recipe!
Gazpacho has its origins in the Andalusian area of Spain, traditionally a peasant food to feed field workers and peasants cheaply with available ingredients in the blazing heat of summer. Bread was often added to bulk out the soup and fill the workers' bellies.
When I have summer houseguests, I make a double batch (a gallon-sized ice cream bucket's worth) ahead of time. It's so versatile because I can serve it one day as an appetizer in small cups with a garnish of diced cucumber and peppers, and another day as a light lunch in bowls, with a Mexican twist - a handful of black beans and a sprinkle of cumin stirred in, and a garnish of chopped purple onion, diced avocado, a dollop of sour cream and chopped cilantro. Pretty versatile, eh?
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Kitchen Frau Notes: A food processor makes light work of this recipe, but if you don't have one, you could chop ingredients individually in a mini processor, or mince them finely by hand.
The beauty of gazpacho is that you can customize it to suit your tastes. Vary the ingredients or amounts. Add fresh herbs if you like. Garnish with different toppings. I like to make it minimally spicy, and let guests add their own hot sauce to suit their tastes. That way even children can enjoy it.
In a pinch, when I haven't had tomato juice on hand, I've used 1 can (5.5oz/156ml) of tomato paste plus enough water to make 2 cups, plus an additional ¼ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon sugar.
*Pack a jug of gazpacho along when you go picnicking or camping!
- ½ medium onion
- 1 large clove garlic
- 2 lbs (900gms) ripe juicy tomatoes (about 4 cups, roughly chopped)
- ½ yellow or green pepper, roughly chopped
- 1 cup (240ml) chopped cucumber
- ½ cup (120ml) chopped celery
- 2 cups (480ml) tomato juice (see notes, above, for substitution)
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- ½ teaspoon sugar (I use coconut sugar)
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup (60ml) extra virgin olive oil
- to garnish: chopped cucumber or pepper, a drizzle of olive oil
- to serve: your favourite hot sauce (we love the Mexican Cholula)
Place the onion and garlic clove in the bowl of a food processor. Whiz for 5 seconds or until they are finely minced, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary.
Cut out the little green core of the tomatos, then roughly chop the tomatoes, pepper, cucumber, and celery. Add them to the food processor and pulse until the vegetables are all minced to a chunky puree.
Add the tomato juice, salt, pepper, sugar, cayenne, vinegar, and oil. Pulse again just to combine - you don't want a smooth soup, but one with some character and rustic chunkiness.
Pour the gazpacho into a couple mason jars or a sealable container. Refrigerate for several hours until chilled.
To serve, top each bowl or mug full of gazpacho with finely diced cucumber or peppers, drizzle with olive oil, and pass the hot sauce so diners can customize the amount of heat they'd like in their soup.
Makes 8 cups (2 quarts/litres) of soup. Will keep, refrigerated, for 5 days.
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