Sunday, October 10, 2010


This week my kitchen counters are crowded with freshly harvested Northern California produce; fragrant pale green apples from the East Bay, colorful winter squash from Santa Cruz, and ripe tomatoes from Sonoma- lots and lots of very ripe tomatoes. Apples and squash will keep well but the tomatoes will not, so I turned to a solution which creative cooks invented centuries ago: gazpacho!

Gazpacho, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as a Spanish soup made with tomatoes and other vegetables, most likely originated in Andalusia; sources more fanciful than the OED claim that the word derives from the Arabic for "soaked bread". Whatever its origins, the combination of tomato and other vegetables, vinegar, olive oil and bread has venerable roots in the agricultural societies around the Mediterranean. A simpler and more deliciously refreshing way to savor the season's best tomatoes does not exist.

Although the recipe provides exact measurements, don't be inhibited by them. Start with some really ripe flavorful tomatoes and add just a few more quality ingredients to the mix. Although I prefer the flavor of an all vegetable gazpacho, you may blend in a slice of leftover baguette as is traditional. It takes only minutes to make this ultra healthy energizing meal in a bowl; wash and chop vegetables, blend and serve!

4 cups ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons celery, chopped
2 tablespoons leek, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
juice of 2 or more lemons
2 teaspoons unflavored vinegar (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
a few fresh or dried basil leaves or oregano
fresh water as needed

garnish options:

1 cup tomatoes, cubed
1 cup cucumber, cubed
1 cup sweet yellow or red peppers
2 jalapeno peppers, diced

Place tomatoes, celery, leek, and garlic in blender and pulse a few times until tomatoes begin to liquefy; blend vegetables in stages if blender is too full. Add lemon juice, vinegar if using, olive oil, salt and basil, and pulse gently a few more times, adding a little water if mixture seems too thick. If you prefer a very smooth textured gazpacho, continue to blend.

Taste and correct seasoning, adding more lemon juice or vinegar and salt as desired. The gazpacho flavor will develop if you allow it to rest for a few minutes; if weather is warm, chill gazpacho briefly before serving. Gazpacho's fresh sparkling flavor is best enjoyed shortly after it is made.

Serve in individual chilled bowls; place garnishes on table in small bowls and allow diners to add their choice. Or for a quick light meal or snack, blend a smaller quantity of the gazpacho ingredients and serve without garnish in a glass.