Tuesday, July 5, 2011


When I said soup season was over for me, I really meant it.  It's hot.  It's too hot for soup. Or pasta.  Too hot for any kind of a sauce.  It's salted radishes, hunk of cheese, piece of bread season.  

But then there's gazpacho.  Gazpacho is all the brightest and crispest flavors of Spanish and Latin American food with none of the heaviness.  It's not just cold, it's raw.  Like all soups, and most other things I cook, it's customizable.  Extra spicy? Sure thing. More of this flavor and less of that one?  Go for it.  

I started with plum tomatoes.  Plum tomatoes are the ones I can reliably find this early, and they have fewer seeds and more "meat" than the others anyway.  

I also cut up a cucumber (I took out the seeds first).

And a bunch of tiny red onions.  Like a quarter of a big red onion. 

Skinning tomatoes reminds me of the late summer sauces that fill my freezer.  I have this great elderly neighbor who brings me the ugliest tomatoes you can imagine from his garden.  I face the heat and stand over a hot stove and make up enough sauce to last through the fall, and then spend my winter staring at cans and doing my best.  So first, I get some water boiling, and have an ice bath on hand, and I make an X in the skin of each tomato with a knife.  

Then I drop the tomatoes into the boiling water for just a minute - the skin wrinkles up quickly and that's when you know they're ready to peel.  Quickly into the ice water bath for another minute. 

And then they're pretty easy to peel by hand.  I peeled them right into a strainer, where I smushed them and haphazardly seeded them, letting whatever juice accumulated cover the cucumber and onion.

 I rinsed the tomatoes to try to clear off a few more seeds (it's really no big deal if a few get in) and chopped them up.  I also minced three cloves of garlic.  

All of that was added to the cucumbers and onion, with some additional flavors.  Salt and pepper, cumin,  balsamic vinegar and vegan worcestershire (I owe the addition of the worcestershire to Alton Brown - you can certainly get by without it, but it adds depth). 

And a jalepeno.  Note that since we've had a few incidents with peppers, the jalepeno is cut on a separate cutting board.  Better safe than sorry.  I pretend it's raw chicken. 

It needs liquid, you know, to be soup.  I use vegetable juice.  I think it has more to it than tomato and for whatever reason, even in glass bottles, I think tomato juice tastes like metal.  Maybe I've had too many cans of it on airplanes?  So I added some veggie juice, enough to make it soup.  Like a cup and a half.

I added a tablespoon of olive oil and the juice of half a lemon. I put a bowl cover on it and let it be in the fridge. 

You can blend it now or blend it later, but either way, it needs to sit a bit.  I made this mostly in the morning, before work, and then came home and tended to it for a bit (added the jalepeno, blended it) left for two hours and then ate it.  I think 12 hours would be perfect, but an hour would be fine. 

Either scoop out about half of it and throw it in your blender on puree or smoothie or whatever, or use an immersion blender and hold back.  I really wanted half of it to be liquid and half of it to be chunky. 

Then I just stirred it for a bit to get the chunky parts integrated. 

I sliced up some avocado and topped it with that and cilantro.  

And served it with grilled cheese on the funny t-shirt shaped bread I made a few weeks ago. 

This made four meals worth.  It was super bright, crisp, and refreshing. 

This recipe is cross-posted at the blog for the South Philly Food Co-op, whose mission is to open a member-owned cooperative grocery store that provides affordable and nutritious food to all residents of South Philadelphia while empowering the local community through sustainable practices, food-centric education, outreach, and community building.  Become a member-owner by filling out the application here

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Bright, crisp, cold summer soup
  • 10 plum tomatoes
  • 1 jalepeno, diced
  • 1 cucumber, skinned, seeded and chopped
  • 1.5 cups low sodium vegetable juice
  • 1/4 large red onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
  • 3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Skin and seed tomatoes, reserving any liquid. To skin tomatoes, make an X in each, drop in boiling water for 1 minute then in ice bath for 1 minute, then peel by hand. Dice tomatoes, cucumber, jalepeno, and onion. Mince garlic.Add everything to a bowl, and blend half of it. Refrigerate for at least an hour, 12 is better. Top with sliced avocado and cilantro, if you have it. Serve cold.
Prep time: Total time: Yield: 4 servings

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