Up here in Vermont the farming season is already short add to that about 2 months of straight rain and you get a very disappointing tomato harvest. M and I decided to utilize are large yet mostly useless deck to start a container garden. And though fun it was not very prosperous to say the least. I was hoping for bounties of tasty summer tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and herbs but really we ended up with tiny tomatoes with little flavor, 2 small cucumber, and 3 peppers (good news this sudden batch of sunshine has encouraged more peppers!). The herbs came out fine I guess, but not what I had hoped for at all and due to all the rain we had cilantro for about 2 weeks till it all flowered and died; on the other hand it came to seed and I harvested coriander! I still found myself having to go to the farmers market weekly. But that did not stop me from taking what little we harvested and adding that to some farmers market goodies to create my favorite summertime treat; Gazpacho!
For some of you this is the perfect way to end the summer and rid yourself of all those tomatoes you may have *cough-jealous-cough* instead of making jars and jars of tomato sauce you can whip up a batch of this soup. It can last in the fridge for over a week, if its not eaten quicker and you can morph it into all kinds of things; add hot peppers or sauce and you have salsa, blend up into a thick puree and you have a light fresh tomato sauce to toss with pasta, add basil and top bruschetta, I am tellin ya endless possibilities!
3-5 Good sized tomatoes, any variety will work, I used a combo of heirloom and slicing from my garden and a few romas I grabbed at the market; diced
1 cucumber diced
1-2 bell peppers diced green or red, I like the sweetness of the red
1 onion, you can use regular white but I like the sweeter varieties, like bermuda, vidalia and red
2-3 cloves garlic minced
A good splash sherry vinegar or white wine works well here too, about 1/4 cup
About 1/4 cup of good quality olive oil with a little extra to drizzle at the end
1 cup tomato juice or sauce (not seasoned)
1 cup or so beef broth (you can leave this out to make it vegetarian and add either veggie stock, water, or more tomato juice)
A couple good dashes of hot sauce
handfull of fresh cilantro and parsley
and of course salt and pepper
Once you have all your veggies diced up nice take about 2/3 of them and plop them in a blender, I use my stick blender. The point is to puree about 2/3 of the mixture. Now pour all the chopped veggies and pureed veggies in a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Just add what you need until you get the desired taste and constancy. If you like your soup thinner you will most likely use all the liquid but if you like a chunkier style like I do you will add less. Play with the vinegar, if your tomatoes are a bit more on the acidic side you may want to cut back but if like me they were a tad bland you may want to kick it up. Also, the hot sauce is to taste feel free to leave it out. We like spicy in this house so I add quite a bit. This is not a science just a basic recipe. It is pretty fool proof if you ask me.
Traditionally, gazpacho uses stale bread but I omit that opting for a crustini along side my soup but the choice is yours. Also, with the bread left out you can morph this into so much more.
Chill this soup over night for best flavors. When ready to serve ladle into cups or bowls and top with a drizzle of good olive oil and a few sprigs of fresh cilantro.
To the leftover soup add chopped olives, capers and fresh oregano and toss with hot pasta.
Add a few more chopped up tomatoes, raw or roasted and a some diced jalapenos for a chunky salsa, or puree further and add chopped chipolte in adobe for a thin smokey salsa.
Add more tomatoes, and fresh basil and top bruschetta for a nice appetizer.
Or puree until smooth adding more tomato juice if needed and mix with vodka for a little twist on a classic Bloody Mary!
You can even freeze this soup! It may not taste as fresh when thawed but in the dead of winter it will be a perfect taste of summer.