Ah, Summertime in Miami. The thermostat hits 80 before the sun rises and the air wraps around you the second you step outside. It’s so hot and sticky, you don’t want to do much other than sit on the beach enjoying the ocean breeze and a cold beer. But of course, I have these silly things called responsibilities. Like going to work. And since I bring my lunch to work every day, I want something refreshing, a respite from the sweltering Miami heat. Something like Gazpacho.
Gazpacho is the perfect soup when it’s too hot outside. Made from tomatoes and bread, topped with crisp, fresh vegetables and croutons – it’s refreshment in a bowl. Not only is it a chilled soup, but (with a teensy tiny exception here) you don’t even cook it. I know I brag about my central air conditioning all the time, but I remember how darn hot my kitchens in NYC and Boston got in August. You don’t want to be turning on the stove, least of all to make soup.
The base is a tart and tangy blend of tomatoes, stale bread, garlic, lime juice, jalapeno, olive oil, vegetable stock and sherry vinegar blended into a creamy soup. This is your base, but the beauty of gazpacho is in the toppings. Sweet and crunchy, they contrast with the tomato soup perfectly – diced cucumbers, red and green bell peppers and toasted croutons. (If you don’t toast your croutons, you will from now on. Homemade toasted croutons are life-changing. I promise.)
This is a more traditional recipe for Gazpacho, but feel free to experiment with your favorite crunchy toppings. I really want to try some perfectly grilled corn, but I have to wait until sweet corn is in season. Maybe some bacon, too. Maybe I’ll report back later this summer with a grilled corn and bacon gazpacho. Just think of the possibilities!
For the soup:
1 1/2 lbs. very ripe tomatoes
4 cups cubed stale bread (I used a leftover piece of a Ciabatta loaf)
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 fresh jalapeno, de-stemmed
3 tbsp. sherry vinegar
3 tbsp. olive oil
juice of 1/2 a lime
1 tsp. sea salt
3 cloves garlic
For the toppings:
1 tbsp. olive oil
1.5 cups cubed or torn stale bread (Ciabatta again)
1 red pepper, finely diced
1 green pepper, finely diced
1.2 cucumber, finely diced
Peel and seed your tomatoes. Usually I’m not a big fan of peeled tomatoes, but in this case it’s a must. Don’t worry if they look hideous, they’re going to be pureed to death.
Place all of the soup ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until very very smooth. Depending on the size of your machine, you may need to do this in batches.
Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes so the flavors “meld”, then give it a couple of extra pulses.Taste and add salt or lime juice as needed. If it’s too thick, stir in some more stock.
If you’re going to eat your soup fairly soon, toast the croutons. Set a large skillet over medium-high. Once it’s hot, heat the olive oil, then add the bread. Toast the bread for 5 – 7 minutes, flipping it occasionally with a spatula. You want it to turn golden and toasty. Remove from heat.
If you’re not ready to eat, chill the soup for a few minutes, hours or up to 3 days. (If you’re waiting more than a few minutes, you should wait to toast your croutons at the last minute.) When you’re ready to eat, ladle the soup into bowls and top with a heaping spoonful of the cucumbers, peppers and croutons.
Makes 4 entree-sized servings or 8 appetizer-sized portions.