When a summer afternoon gets away from you and dinner is just around the corner, Weeknight Gazpacho saves the day. Simple preparation and just a few ingredients, make it an ideal last minute meal. This chilled soup is hearty enough for dinner in hot weather with just a salad or a baguette and cheese.
Of course, I don’t want to dissuade you from making it for an appetizer or lunch. In fact, if you’re like my family, you may find yourself eating it once or twice a day for many days straight – as long as you can find summer tomatoes.
During the past few weeks I tinkered around with versions of gazpacho. I finalized this recipe courtesy of my generous friend and neighbor David. On his way back from the Delaware beaches at the end of a weekend, David often stops at a farm stand. There, he likes to buy tomatoes, typically seconds that have a slight bruise or other imperfection but are perfectly wonderful in all other respects. I’m often the recipient – and a grateful one – of part of his bounty.
Farmers market tomatoes are among my favorite foods in the summer. I’ve pretty much stopped buying tomatoes out-of-season in grocery stores, because no matter which type I buy or how nice they look, those red orbs are practically always tasteless. On the other hand, fresh tomatoes picked in season by farmers are treasures. They are bred for taste, not the rough handling that grocery store tomatoes must endure. And so what if they have a blemish or two that need to be cut off? You don’t have to be a vegetarian or a religious person to think that a fresh summer tomato is just one step away from heaven.
This Weeknight Gazpacho is as simple as chilled soup can get. It relies on the taste of good tomatoes. If yours aren’t (good) and you’re determined to make gazpacho, then find another recipe or get better ones.
You can make this soup mild or spicy, depending on how much banana or jalapeno pepper you use and the heat of your specific pepper. Leaving the seeds of the pepper in will definitely make the soup spicier. You can always make the soup spicier with more minced pepper or a sauce like Sriracha once the soup is finished, while it’s tough to make it less spicy if you are heavy handed with the pepper in the first instance. So, if you’re in doubt as to how spicy you want it, start with a teaspoon of minced pepper and go on from there. Also, keep in mind that as the soup chills, the spiciness tends to be less apparent. Tasting the soup after it chills is better for this purpose than just after it is made.
The only other absolute for this recipe is a food processor or blender. An immersion blender will work fine; you just need to puree the ingredients.
Serves – 4
- 3-4 tomatoes (about 2 pounds or 2½ cups seeded and chopped tomatoes)
- 1 English (long, thin) cucumber or 2 regular cucumbers
- ½ – 1 bell pepper (either red, orange or yellow, but not green because it is too bitter)
- 1 medium shallot, about ¼ cup minced (If you don’t have a shallot use a sweet onion such as a Vidalia or Walla Walla)
- part of a banana or jalapeno pepper (about 1-2 teaspoons minced), de-seeded if you want to tone down the heat
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup light colored and light tasting vinegar (white balsamic, unseasoned rice wine, or sherry vinegar)
- ½ teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- Optional garnishes – lightly toasted bread cubes, along with part of the cucumber and/or bell pepper used in the soup
- After peeling the tomatoes (using my 1-2 minute boiling method or with a serrated edged peeler), pull out the seeds and tear or cut them There is no need to make them pretty – you’ll soon pulzerize them. Put the pieces of tomato pulp in the bowl of the blender or food processor.
- Peel the cucumber (in stripes, or taking off all the skin.) Pull the seeds out with a spoon and roughly chop the cucumber into chunks. Reserve about ¼ of the cucumber for garnish. Seed and chop the bell pepper, also reserving a chunk or two for garnish if you would like.
- Add the cucumber and bell pepper to the bowl with the tomatoes. Puree the mixture until no large pieces remain; it will not be smooth.
- Combine the oil and vinegar in a measuring cup with the chopped shallot, banana or jalapeno pepper, salt and pepper. Pour the mixture into the pureed vegetables and pulse until all of the ingredients are well mixed.
- Chill the soup in the refrigerator. If you’re in a hurry, pour the soup into a medium-sized bowl and place that one in a larger bowl containing enough ice cubes and a bit of cold water so that the ice and cold water come up the outside wall of the soup bowl but do not touch the soup. That will speed the chilling process.
- Serve the soup chilled and garnished with the diced cucumber, bell pepper, and/or bread cubes.