Summer Foods, Part I: Gazpacho

Tuesday, July 6, 2010



A few years ago at about this time of year I was talking on the phone to a friend who lives in Wisconsin. I said I was making gazpacho and watermelon sorbet. She laughed and said, “Let me guess, it’s hot there.”

I nearly always drop some weight in the summer, partly because I bike a lot and partly because when it’s really hot, I have no appetite. Cooking makes the house hot, eating and washing dishes makes me hotter, feeling full when you’re hot is just gross. So I eat lightweight foods — raw fruit and raw or barely cooked vegetables, cold soups and salads — and drink gallons of water.

It was hot hot in June then we had a lovely cool week, but it looks like it’s heading back to hot hot hot this week. So in honor of that, I’ll post some of my favorite summer recipes, starting with my very favorite, gazpacho.

This earns the number one spot by virtue of having many things going for it and hardly anything against it — it uses fresh, seasonal vegetables; it does not heat up the house to make; the recipe makes a lot, so you can share it and still have a lot to eat; and it tastes great. The only downside I can think of is that tomato juice tends to have a lot of sodium, but you can try to get a lower sodium version (I used Knudsen’s when I made it last week) to address that problem.

The version I make is based on the original Moosewood Cookbook recipe, with a jalapeño and extra garlic thrown in. (The original recipe calls for one clove of garlic which is not nearly enough.)

20-30 minutes to prepare, 2 hours to chill
6+ servings

1 small, well-minced onion
up to 3 cloves crushed garlic
2 cups freshly-diced tomatoes
1 medium-to-large green pepper, minced
1 medium-to-large jalapeño, minced, with or without seeds, as you prefer
1 large cucumber, peeled and diced
2 (or more) scallions, chopped (both whites and green)
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley

4 cups cold tomato juice

juice of 1/2 lemon and 1 lime (plus more to taste)
1 tsp honey
2 Tbsp wine vinegar (red wine or balsamic)
2 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp. tarragon
1 tsp. basil (or substitute fresh)
dash of ground cumin (omit entirely, or add more depending on how you feel about cumin)
dash of tabasco sauce (use instead of or in addition to the jalapeño)
salt and black pepper to taste [NOTE: unless you are using very low sodium tomato juice, you will not need to add salt]

Combine all ingredients, then taste to adjust honey, vinegar, spices, and lemon/lime juice. Chill for at least 2 hours.

Some or all of the soup can be puréed.

I usually purée about a third of it, so it’s still chunky but the base is fairly thick.

I eat it with some kind of bread — baguette or bagel or crackers — with goat cheese, and some kind of very high-water fruit, watermelon or cantaloupe or pineapple. And fresh corn on the cob, if I have it.

I think it’s the perfect summer meal.