Labor Day weekend is all about the last hurrahs of summer. It’s a wakeup call to the fact that summer is almost over, so you’d better do all those things that you’ve been meaning to do while the weather is nice. It’s time to take a walk on the beach, fly a kite with the kids, and eat dinner outside as much as possible. It won’t be long until the snow is back, so it’s best to take advantage of all the fresh produce while we can.
This is the height of tomato season here in Rochester. It seems like it takes forever for the tomatoes to arrive, but once they do they’re everywhere. An overabundance of tomatoes is not a problem in my house. I love to make tomato sandwiches for lunch, or even turn it into a BLT if I have the bacon around. And my youngest son shares my passion for tomatoes–although if you ask him, they’re called “may-ate-oes.” He would eat an entire pint of cherry tomatoes in one sitting if I let him. At his third birthday party a couple of weeks ago he hoarded the tomatoes from the veggie tray as if they were candy. He even eats them for breakfast sometimes. So, “may-ate-oes” never go to waste around here. But if you are looking for a way to use up your tomatoes, this soup is perfect. (Of course, if you have A LOT of tomatoes, you could always try this.)
This gazpacho tastes like summer distilled into its purest flavors. There is the wonderful sweet acidity of the tomatoes, combined with a bit of heat from the peppers and the coolness of the cucumbers. Last summer I made this recipe as it was written, and my husband wasn’t too impressed. This summer I changed it to keep it creamy and just added some finely diced veggies on top as a garnish. What a difference–it got rave reviews, and that is saying a lot since my husband is not a big fan of tomatoes. We had it as part of a tapas style dinner, which is my absolute favorite way to eat in the summer. You have little bites of delicious stuff, most of which doesn’t involve a lot of cooking. Our “little bites” included toasted bread topped with havarti & quince jelly, and a salad topped with chunks of chorizo cooked with parsley & lemon juice (inspired by this cookbook).
Creamy Gazpacho (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated magazine)
- 6 medium tomatoes, cores removed
- 1 small cucumber
- 1 medium bell pepper
- 1 small red onion, peeled
- 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 small serrano chile, seeds removed
- kosher salt
- 1 slice white sandwich bread, crust removed
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons finely minced parsley
- ground black pepper
- Cut off a 2-inch chunk of the cucumber. Remove the seeds from the small chunk of cucumber and finely dice it. Place the diced cucumber in a fine-mesh strainer set over a medium bowl. Cut 1/4 of the bell pepper off, finely dice it, and add it to the diced cucumbers. Do the same with 1/4 of the onion and 1 of the tomatoes. Toss the finely diced vegetables with 1/2 teaspoon salt and set aside (at room temperature) for 1 hour.
- Remove the peel and seeds from the remaining piece of cucumber. Roughly chop it and place it in a large bowl. Roughly chop the garlic, chile, and the remaining tomatoes, bell pepper, & onion, and add them to the large bowl. Toss with 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt. Set aside (at room temperature) until the hour has passed for step 1.
- Transfer the finely diced vegetables to a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate until you are ready to serve. Tear the bread into small chunks and add it to the liquid left behind in the medium bowl. When the bread has soaked up all the liquid, add it to the large bowl of roughly chopped vegetables and stir to combine.
- Blend together the roughly chopped vegetable-bread mixture and olive oil. (I use an immersion blender right in the bowl. If you’re using a regular blender you might have to do this in batches.) Stir in the vinegar, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (preferably overnight).
- Stir in the parsley and season with ground black pepper. Taste the soup and add more salt if necessary. Serve in small bowls topped with a small scoop of the finely diced vegetables in the center of each bowl.