Lynda Balslev: A soup to beat the heat
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.
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
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