Summers in the South can be sultry, so finding something cool and refreshing for lunch or dinner provides a welcome respite from the heat. One of my favorites is Gazpacho, a chilled tomato-based soup that celebrates summer’s vegetables. Gazpacho is sometimes referred to as a liquid salad and its history dates back centuries. My Mom would make this wonderful soup for her bridge club, my Grandmother for the ladies in her canasta group.
It is often difficult to get people who are unfamiliar with chilled soups to give them a try. I’m stupefied by folks who claim they dislike something but admit they have never actually tasted it. (I live with one who can frequently be such a skeptic!) Gazpacho has such bright, crisp flavors and it’s ridiculously easy to pull together. Much of the time spent making Gazpacho is in the prep of the vegetables, then it’s just a matter of tossing the ingredients in your blender. The flavors will continue to meld together as the soup chills, which makes this a great recipe when you need to get a head start on entertaining.
For the base of this delightful soup, start with a high quality tomato juice then load up with garden ripe tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, celery, onion and sweet bell pepper. The flavors are rounded with a touch of rich olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Top with freshly grated Parmesan, perhaps some toasted croutons and you’re ready to serve!
3 cups tomato juice, such as Clamato
1/3 cup balsamic or red wine vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
1 pound ripe tomatoes, quartered
2 cups cucumbers, peeled and chopped
½ cup celery, chopped
½ cup sweet onion, chopped
1/3 cup red bell pepper, chopped
½ teaspoon garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
½ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper, or to taste
A dash or two of Tabasco, or to taste
Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor.
Process in your blender until fairly smooth, about 15-30 seconds. Chill before serving.