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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Gazpacho: A Fresh Take On An Old Favorite

Fresh Tomato Gazpacho
Fresh Tomato Gazpacho
Ah, it's that time of year again: ripe tomatoes hang heavy on backyard vines; they stack up temptingly at farmers' markets and produce stands, and we all want to eat as many as we can before summer's bounty yields to the inexorable approach of frost.

Fresh-picked tomatoes are a wondrous thing–no need for elaborate preparations or fancy condiments, just a sprinkle of salt and they're ready to go, raw and unadulterated, like the fruits they are. But sometimes we want to do more...or folks simply have so many tomatoes on hand that something new is needed. Hence an old-time vegetarian favorite, gazpacho, is welcomed back to our late-summer tables.

This year, gazpacho at my house is different, reimagined and refined. It uses whole, fresh tomatoes: no peeling, seeding, or juicing required. I've swapped out red for green peppers–liking the sweet, rich flavor of the red–and subbed in long, English hothouse cucumber for its more watery and seedier American cousin. While this isn't an authentic Spanish recipe by any means, I've moved back toward gazpacho's Andalusian roots, reintroducing bread to give it body, and making this a mild, or only very slightly spicy, incarnation of the classic soup.

It has been said that there are as many versions of gazpacho as there are cooks, each as individual as a fingerprint. That being true, I'm sure you'll never make this one exactly (or even approximately) as I do. But it's an idea, possibly an inspiration. Think it over as you gaze upon your end-of-summer tomato harvest, and maybe it will get your ripening creative juices flowing.

Gazpacho: A Fresh Take On An Old Favorite
Anne Milton
September, 2012

2 pounds very ripe tomatoes, cored and cut in chunks
1/2 loaf French or other coarse- textured white bread, crust removed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 small bunch cilantro, washed and stems removed
1 or 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half
1 large red bell pepper, seeded, cut in 1/4" dice
1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut in 1/4" dice
1/2 medium red onion, minced
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
3/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon mild paprika
1 pinch cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sour cream, mixed with
1/2 cup slightly drained plain yogurt

  1. In food processor, blend whole chopped tomatoes and their juices, bread, half the cilantro and all the garlic until completely pulverized. (You may have to work in batches, depending on your processor's capacity.)
  2. Add half the pepper, half the cucumber, and half the onion, and blend in a couple of short bursts just until new veggies are finely chopped.
  3. Stir in remaining vegetables, vinegar, oil, seasonings and lemon juice. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. If the soup is not tart enough, you may add more vinegar and/or lemon juice. If it lacks sweetnes from the tomatoes, add a tiny bit of sugar.
  4. Chill at least 2 hours and up to 1 day. Serve cold, topping each serving with a generous spoonful of the sour cream mixture.

Yield: serves 4-6 as an accompaniment to a meal

This is terrific made with heirloom tomatoes. Garnish with thin cucumber slices and a sprig of cilantro, if desired.

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