It’s has been hot lately. H-o-t. The kind of sticky-hot that makes you want to stand with your head in the freezer, or compels you, in your non-air conditioned upstairs apartment, to sit smack on a cold pack while watching a movie. This is the kind of hot that makes you want to do anything but turn on the oven. But we all have to eat, and yogurt and salads sure do get boring after a while.
This weekend, I looked to my blender for help.
I have an interesting relationship with blended foods; drinking meals always seemed more of an activity suited to babies. I love the idea of smoothies, but I always find them a distant second to the act of chewing, reminding myself that my teeth are still firmly rooted in my mouth, ready to do their job. I come from the school of thought that believes if you have a sprightly young set of teeth, you should use them. Still, when one is faced with days this hot, there are few appliances as convenient as a blender, and, as I’ve found, no one can argue with gazpacho.
I first tasted real gazpacho only two months ago, on my trip to Europe. I spent a very brief time in Barcelona, and while there my friend Elise and I went to the same tapas place twice in a row. Their gazpacho was a pale pink soup served in what looked sort of like a lowball glass, with a hearty swirl of good olive oil, and it was fantastic. So even though the tomatoes in the Northeast are late this season, or worse, have been tragically wiped out, I decided to go on ahead without perfect tomatoes, and try and recreate this soup the best I could with some pretty good local backups.
This recipe is heartbreakingly simple; the hardest part, I found, was waiting the four hours for it to chill until I could pour myself a big mug. Cold, refreshing, and with the slightest bite of acid from the sherry vinegar, this really is the closest you can get to having august in a bowl, with tomato season in full swing or not. Eat it with a nice hunk of baguette on the side, just to remind your teeth they have a job to do.
(Adapted from Epicurious.com)
This amount makes enough for about 6, or a generous amount to have for a few days with enough to dip a spoon in it every time you’re in the fridge. If your blender is on the small side, you might need to do the pureeing in two batches.
½ cup tomato juice
1 (1-inch) piece baguette, crust discarded and cut into 1-inch cubes
7 very ripe medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
¾ medium English cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped
1 ½ cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 1/8 teaspoons Real red sea salt (kosher would work fine, too)
1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika*
1/8 cup plus 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (plus more for drizzling)
Pour tomato juice over the bread cubes in a small bowl and set aside until the bread has become reasonably soggy, about 15 minutes.
Place bread and juice into blender and puree until smooth; you might need to add a tablespoon or so of water to help the bread blend. Add cucumbers, tomatoes, garlic, salt and paprika and blend until smooth.
If you like chunkier gazpacho, don’t pay attention to this next step, but I kind of prefer a smoother soup that you can almost drink. Strain the contents of the blender through a sieve or a small-holed colander, pressing on the solids to push the liquid through. Return liquid to the blender. Add vinegar, incorporate, and then add the oil in a thin stream with the blender running.
Discard solids, pour soup into a container and chill, covered, for at least 4 hours or overnight.