Friday, July 5, 2013

HOT DAYS, COLD SOUP



I'm sure I'll get hate mail from my east coast friends, but it's just under six months until winter and I can't wait!  Since allergy season rolled into hot and muggy season in our neck of the woods, I've been trying to come up with ways to stay cool this summer.  After about a month of non-stop rain, and just in time for a long holiday weekend, the heat has decided to hover just above our house, making life feel like a bowl of microwaved cheese gone three minutes too long on HIGH.  Hot, sticky and totally unpleasant!  As a kid growing up in the southwest, one of my fondest memories of summer was when my mother would make a huge batch of Gazpacho, usually in an over-sized Suntea jar so we had delicious, cold treats for days!  Gazpacho in summer, like turkey and gravy on Thanksgiving, was one way to define summer, in an otherwise season-free environment.  Like sleeping in late, swimming all day and playing kick the can with neighbors, a cold bowl of Gazpacho just says summer is here to stay.  And, when it's hot and gross outside, it's a nice way to keep the heat at bay.
TAKE A CHILL PILL:
I like to serve Gazpacho as a meal or an appetizer (smaller portions I usually put in a fun cocktail glass, while meal servings get a fun garnish like avocado).  The recipes for Gazpacho are plenty, but this one from Cooks Illustrated is one of my favorites and incredibly easy!  While the ingredients might seem plenty, most likely you've got a lot sitting around your pantry.  Apply a cold compress to your neck, and get started.  Here's what you'll need:
1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, cored and cut into cubes
2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into pieces
2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 small sweet onion or two large shallots, minced (to make about 1/2 cup)
1/3 cup sherry vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper
5 cups tomato juice
1 tsp hot sauce (if you like it spicy)
8 ice cubes
THEN...
1.) Combine tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, onion, vinegar, garlic and two teaspoons salt in large (at least 4 quart) bowl and season with pepper to taste.  Let stand until vegetables just begin to release their juices, about 5 minutes.  Stir in tomato juice, hot sauce (if desired) and ice cubes.  Cover tightly and refrigerate to blend flavors, at least 4 hours or up to 2 days.
2.) Remove and discard unmelted ice cubes and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve cold, drizzling each portion with olive oil and topping with garnish (I love to use sliced avocado).