Gazpacho is the chilled soup of summer, best when vine ripened tomatoes and sweet onions arrive at the markets. Everyone has a favorite recipe, but none, perhaps, as simple as mine. My recipe for gazpacho was inspired by Pierre Franey, one of the early French chefs to arrive in America after the war. You may not remember Chef Franey, but his decades long collaboration with Craig Claiborne revolutionized the food section of the New York Times. It was during this collaboration that Pierre Franey introduced Cuisine Rapide – the salvation for those desperate for something quick to put on their table.
My version of gazpacho is delicious as is, but can also be looked at as a starting point for experimentation. To this base of heirloom tomatoes, red bell pepper, sweet onion, cucumber, basil, red wine vinegar, and olive oil, you can add sweet Brentwood corn, day-old French bread, or hot peppers. You can change the texture of the soup as well, perhaps pureeing one day or hand chopping the next. Roasting the vegetables is another variation. I have even been known to add some horseradish, celery, Worcestershire sauce and a shot of vodka for an heirloom Bloody Mary. The possibilities are endless.
Ingredients – don’t worry about proportions
4 – 5 Heirloom Tomatoes – cored
1 Red Bell Pepper – seeded
2 Cucumbers – skinned and seeded
1 Sweet Onion – Walla Walla if available
1 Clove hard-necked garlic (optional)
Handful of fresh basil
1 -2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar (to brighten flavor)
¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt to bring out flavors
Imagination – optional
I core the stem end of the tomato, chop it, and puree it with skins in the food processor. I then take the tomato puree and run it through a hand-crank food mill to separate the skins and seeds from the juices.
Add the remaining ingredients to the food processer and puree – experimenting with texture.
Add the pureed vegetables to the tomato broth and refrigerate, covered, until serving.