Lynda Balslev: A soup to beat the heat

Gazpacho is a warm weather soup. In other words, it’s a cold, sipping, thirst-quenching soup enriched with hot chili to make you sweat and thus cool you down in the summer heat. Spanish vegetable soup is tomato-based and mixed with a cornucopia (or in this case, a pan) of chopped vegetables. Many preparations suggest blending the whole batch, or blending half and mixing the result with the rest of the vegetables.

I choose not to mix at all. I prefer to chop and dice all the vegetables and dip them in a bath of citrus and spice-infused tomato juice. The result is a deliciously juicy and crispy soup. You could call it a liquid salad.

Gazpacho is a great way to clean out your crisper drawer. There are a lot of riffs you can make when making this soup by tipping the scales of vegetables and spices in a certain direction. This recipe leans southwest, with a healthy infusion of cumin, chili peppers, cilantro, and lime.



That said, it’s important to keep a few rules of thumb in mind: Use a good quality tomato juice as a base. Be sure to add a cucumber (seedless), which provides a fresh, juicy, neutral component to the soup. Make sure you have a balance of sweet and savory vegetables for the perfect bite. Red bell peppers add a crunchy sweetness, as do finely chopped sweet carrots, which keep their crunch. Fennel is an outlier that adds a crisp anise note to the soup (and I had it in my fridge!).

Try to cut the vegetables in a similar size for a perfect bite. While this step takes some time, you might consider cutting out a form of exercise on a hot, muggy day when running is impossible. Once assembled, the soup will be quite thick; it will get juicier as it cools. Refrigerate the gazpacho for at least 1 hour to chill properly and allow the flavors to meld.



Southwest Gazpacho

Preparation time: 10 minutes (does not include chopping time)

Total time: 10 minutes, plus cool down time

Yield: 6 servings

1 liter of tomato juice

2 large vine-ripened tomatoes, stemmed and seeded, finely chopped

1 English cucumber with skin, seeded, finely chopped

1 red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely chopped

1 poblano pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely chopped

1 fennel bulb, finely chopped (optional)

1 carrot, finely chopped

1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely chopped

1/2 white or sweet red onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced or passed through a press

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 to 2 teaspoons of Mexican hot sauce

1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems

1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves and young stems

Lime slices to decorate

Combine all ingredients except cilantro and parsley in a large bowl. Stir to mix and taste for seasoning. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 6 hours. Before serving, add the cilantro and parsley. Taste again for seasoning. Serve with lime wedges.

Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Spanish vegetable soup, gazpacho, is tomato-based and mixed with a cornucopia (or in this case, a pan) of chopped vegetables.
Photo by Lynda Balslev for Tastefood

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