Just as a bowl of hot soup can thaw you out on a cold day, a bowl of cold soup can cool you off on a hot one-- and there’s no reason to slave over a hot stove preparing it if you own a blender.
Gazpacho, the ubiquitous soup of southern Spain (it’s known as gaspacho-- same soup, different spelling-- in Portugal), is one of those foods-- like Mom's chicken soup or Grandma’s spaghetti sauce-- that each family prepares its own way. As long as you achieve the flavor and thickness you like, it doesn’t matter what proportions of vegetables you use-- and gazpacho is a good way to use up an overabundance of tomatoes or cucumbers from your garden.
You begin by washing the vegetables you intend to use. These should include tomatoes and cucumbers and bell peppers, but if you have an aversion to bell peppers (some people can’t eat them), leave them out. There should be fresh garlic cloves, added “to taste,” and onion (sweet onions, whether white or purple, seem to work best, but you can add the white part of green onions or even mild yellow onions if that’s what you have around)-- how much of each depends on what you have around and on your preference.
Most gazpacho recipes call for tomato juice, but if you have more tomatoes than you know what to do with, you can skip the tomato juice and just puree a lot of ripe tomatoes. Salt, pepper, olive oil, and red wine vinegar make up the rest of the traditional ingredients, although you won’t have a problem adding white vinegar or the juice of a lemon or a lime if that’s what you have on hand.
The final mandatory ingredient is good, crusty chunks of bread, which can be ripped up and toasted in the oven, or toasted in the toaster and then broken up. Some recipes call for soaking state bread in water and adding that to the blender mix, but making bread chunks into rough croutons is easier and adds to the presentation.
Here’s what to do: drop two or three peeled garlic cloves, cut in half, into your blender. Add anywhere from a quarter to a whole (small) onion. Add a large cucumber or two-- traditional recipes call for unpeeled cucumber, but if it’s waxed (as some from the store often are) or if the peel is too thick, you can remove all or part of the peel. If it is very seedy, dig out and discard the seedy part.
If you are using peppers, core and seed one or two of them and add the flesh of the pepper in strips or chunks. Then add as many tomatoes as you want to use up (any color, any kind), after removing the core and any blemishes.
Add a tablespoon or two of olive oil, some salt and freshly ground black pepper, and a couple of tablespoons of vinegar or lime juice (you might want to add a little less if using lemon juice, but remember, you can always taste the blended soup and add more of any ingredient).
Then add tomato juice-- two to three cups, more if you don’t have tomatoes, less (or none) if you have a lot of tomatoes. And blend for about a minute.
The mixture should come out thick and creamy and sort of pinkish red. Taste it, adjust your seasonings, reblend to mix them in, and put it in the fridge until you are ready to serve it. Serve it in bowls with chunks of toasted bread for garnish, and crusty toasted bread on the side. It’s a refreshing and easy way to start a summer meal.