Not a problem, really, but late summer does bring vine-fresh tomatoes in glorious surplus. After dreaming of them for most of a year, wistfully, as the off-season imposters aren’t so special, suddenly we find perfect tomatoes everywhere. Nearly bursting with sun-charged flavor and juiciness, peak-season tomatoes adorn back yards, farmers’ markets and roadside stands across the land, piled to the heavens and beyond.
Now that we have them, what are we to do with them? Ideas are nearly as numerous as tomatoes, but few embody late-summer’s bounty as perfectly as gazpacho, the Andalusian tomato soup. Of course, it far exceeds regular tomato soup, because in gazpacho tomatoes just get things started.
The tomatoes’ tangy, hearty vibrance finds balance in cool, crisp peppers and ethereal cucumbers. Add garlic and onions’ zesty bite and a splash of sherry to make all the flavors hum, and it becomes obvious gazpacho provides so much more satisfaction than does a can of tomato soup.
Best of all, gazpacho is typically served chilled, the colder the better. How perfect is that for late summer? All of an August garden’s exuberant abundance served up with bracing, refreshing coldness. Oh, gazpacho still is wonderful heated as a more conventional soup, but when refrigerated it’s sublime.
In fact, when this particular recipe first appeared in the New York Times, their gazpacho was intended to be served as a drink, something more convivial to the cocktail parties Times readers are accustomed to attending. That’s a great idea, but when so much fresh garden excellence is at hand, why limit to a glass, gone after a few blissful sips? Our window for enjoying fresh vegetables at their peak closes awfully fast, so it’s better to consume them by the bowlful now, when we have the chance.
Plus, making gazpacho as a soup allows me to utilize my own garden surplus. The nasturtium flower and leaf garnishing the soup in picture above not only look nice, but they add a peppery contrast to the soup’s coolness. Among the several varieties of tomatoes used for this recipe were the Yellow Pears shown just below the soup. These were grown in a sunny spot in my parents’ yard, just half an hour away.
- about 2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks
- 1 cubanelle or Anaheim pepper, cored, seeded and cut into chunks
- 1 cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 small mild onion, peeled and cut into chunks (*1)
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar (*2)
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Combine tomatoes, pepper, cucumber, onion and garlic in a food processor or blender. Blend an high speed until smooth, at least two minutes.
With the motor running, add the vinegar and salt. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and blend until the overall mixture is smooth and emulsified.
Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer, pushing through all the liquid with a spatula. Discard the solids.
Refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or overnight, and serve.
1 – A “small mild onion?” This recipe just demands we substitute a shallot, doesn’t it?
2 – Despite an overwhelming array, many dozens, of vinegars at the local grocers, I couldn’t find sherry vinegar, so I used balsamic instead. However, I did have half a bottle of drinking sherry on hand, so I added a few splashes of that. It serves the recipe well.