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Lynda Balslev: A soup to beat the heat

Lynda Balslev
Columnist

 

Gazpacho is a warm-weather soup. In other words, it’s a cold, slurpy, thirst-quenching soup, spiked with chile heat to make you sweat and, hence, cool you down in the summer heat. The Spanish vegetable soup is tomato-based and mixed with a cornucopia (or in this case, a sheet pan) of chopped vegetables. Many preparations suggest blending the whole lot, or blending half and mixing the result with the remaining vegetables.

I opt for no blending at all. I prefer to chop and dice all the vegetables and tumble them into a bath of citrusy, spice-infused tomato juice. The result is a delightfully juicy and crunchy soup. You could call it a liquid salad.

Gazpacho is a great way to clear your vegetable drawer. There are many riffs you can make when preparing this soup by tipping the balance of vegetables and spices in a certain direction. This recipe leans toward the southwestern, with a healthy infusion of cumin, chile peppers, cilantro and lime.



With that said, it’s important to mind a few rules of thumb: Use a good-quality tomato juice as a base. Be sure to add a cucumber (seeded), which provides a cool, juicy, neutral component to the soup. Make sure you have a balance of sweet and savory vegetables for a perfect bite. Red bell peppers add crisp sweetness, as do finely chopped sweet carrots, which keep their crunch. Fennel is an outlier that adds a crisp anise note to the soup (and I had it in my refrigerator!).

Try to cut the vegetables in a similar size for a perfect mouthful. While this step takes some time, you can consider the chopping a form of exercise on a hot and muggy day, when it’s impossible to go out for a jog. Once assembled, the soup will be quite thick; it will become juicier while chilling. Refrigerate the gazpacho for at least 1 hour to properly chill and to allow the flavors to meld.



Southwestern Gazpacho

Prep time: 10 minutes (does not include chopping time)

Total time: 10 minutes, plus chilling time

Yield: Serves 6

1 quart tomato juice

2 large vine-ripened tomatoes, stemmed and seeded, finely diced

1 English cucumber with skin, seeded, finely diced

1 red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely diced

1 poblano pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely diced

1 fennel bulb, finely chopped (optional)

1 carrot, finely chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely chopped

1/2 sweet white or red onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced or pushed through a press

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 to 2 teaspoons Mexican hot sauce

1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems

1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves and tender stems

Lime wedges for garnish

Combine all the ingredients except the cilantro and parsley in a large bowl. Stir to blend and taste for seasoning. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 6 hours. Before serving, stir in the cilantro and parsley. Taste again for seasoning. Serve with lime wedges.

Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay area

The Spanish vegetable soup, Gazpacho, is tomato-based and mixed with a cornucopia (or in this case, a sheet pan) of chopped vegetables.
Photo by Lynda Balslev for Tastefood

 

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