I’ll Drink My Dinner, Thanks

Way too hot for pies this week and with highs of 84-100 for the next week, it’s time to trot out the gazpacho. I made this a couple of weeks ago and then again today. I can’t overemphasize how very much I love this stuff. Not only does it satisfy every hot-weather food craving that I have, it keeps nicely in the fridge for as long as it lasts (which is never very long, alas, despite the vast quantities that this recipe makes), makes a nice hangover cure (or so I’m told), and is drop-dead fun to make as long as you have a good food processor.

There’s no shortage of gazpacho recipes out there, and like any dish that’s become too trendy for its own good, people have come up with many variations. Some are innovative but many are dreadful. The recipe that I use comes from the iconic Time/Life Foods of the World Cookbook series, from the volume The Cooking of Spain and Portugal. I made a couple of changes. The original recipe uses a blender, but a food processor is so much tidier. I increased the amount of garlic, because that’s what me and my peeps like. And I removed the green bell pepper and replaced it with a nice sweet red one. I know that green bell peppers are technically considered food but I ate way too many of them as a child and have come to detest them. I don’t pick them out of my food in public like some picky eaters that I know, but neither do I add them to my food voluntarily. Oh, and I took out the single tablespoon of tomato paste in the original recipe. Who the hell has one tablespoon of tomato paste sitting around?

Gazpacho

5 ripe, fragrant, big-ass tomatoes, any variety

2 average-sized regular cucumbers

1 medium onion (I like a Walla Walla sweet for this)

1 red bell pepper, or you could use a yellow or orange one.

2-3 cups cubed French or Italian bread, fresh or stale, just not moldy

2-3 fat cloves garlic

1/4 cup wine vinegar

2 cups cold water

4 teaspoons kosher salt or sea salt

4 tablespoons olive oil

Here’s what I do: Get out your biggest non-reactive bowl and pile all of the vegetables in it as follows. Cut the tomatoes in half and seed them, cut into chunks. I don’t peel them. Life is too flipping short to peel a tomato. Do peel the cucumbers, though, as the cuke peel is just too rough for this dish. Peel them and cut them into chunks. Cut the onion and the bell pepper (you do know that you are supposed to take the seeds out of the pepper, right?) into chunks. Add the bread cubes. Toss the whole mess with your hands, then pour over the water and vinegar. Shove this aside for a moment.

I don’t have a big enough bowl to facilitate tossing, so I actually add the vegetables and bread in layers: tomato, pepper, bread, tomato, cucumber, bread, tomato, onion, bread, tomato, cucumber, bread, tomato.

Get your trusty food processor out and fit it with the chopping blade. Pop the garlic in the there and chop it thoroughly. You might need to toss in some of the vegetables to help it move around; make sure it’s finely chopped. Then just start pureeing the vegetable mix in batches. Don’t fill it too full or you will have a mess. Pour each pureed aliquot into a large pitcher (I use an ugly but functional RubberMaid 1/2 gallon plastic one for this) as you go along. When it’s all pureed, stir in the salt and then the olive oil. Chill at least two hours.

I like to serve this in mugs or sturdy teacups with spoons; guests can drink it or eat it with a spoon. I also like to put ice cubes in it, but that’s up to you. It makes a great first course or can anchor the entire meal. Have crusty bread, olives, strong sharp cheese, maybe some green salad, and a pitcher of sangria along with it.