Gazpacho season is here

Tomato season got a slow start this year but my favorite vegetable finally has hit its stride.  Ripe and juicy heirloom tomatoes overflow the tables at local farmers markets and their bright, intense flavors are just the ticket for a terrific gazpacho.

This dish was inspired by the VitaMix blender I finally broke down and bought this summer.  (What can I say?  The demonstrators at Costco were incredibly persuasive.)

You don’t need a super powerful blender to make this spicy cold soup, however.  Any food processor or blender will suffice, but you may want to pass it through a food mill as well to achieve the smoothest texture.  The VitaMix eliminates that step.

This gazpacho, a specialty of Andalusia in the south of Spain, makes the most of  the season’s best produce.  It’s an uncomplicated dish that depends on the ripest tomatoes and good quality olive oil for its impressive flavors.  A little bread thickens the texture and makes a substantial soup for a summer evening – no heat required.

You can’t ask for much more at this time of year.

Serves 6 

7 medium tomatoes, about 2¼ pounds
¾ English cucumber, peeled
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 slices country-style bread, crust removed
½ teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup good extra virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
2 tablespoons sherry or red wine vinegar

Chop tomatoes, cucumber and bell pepper.  Reserve about 1 cup of each vegetable for garnish, cover and refrigerate for later use.  Place remaining chopped vegetables and minced garlic in blender jar or work bowl of food processor.  Soak bread briefly in a bowl of cold water and squeeze dry.

Add bread, cumin, salt, olive oil, and vinegar to vegetables in the blender or processor.  Whirl until smooth.  (You may want to use a food mill or strainer to get a truly silky texture.)  If the mixture is too thick, thin with a little water.  Chill for at least four hours or overnight.

To serve, spoon gazpacho into bowls, garnish with a generous spoonful each of the reserved tomatoes, cucumber and pepper, and drizzle with a little olive oil if desired.

Aleta Watson