Monday, June 23, 2008

Gazpacho, muchacho?

DC heat and humidity can wilt a person within minutes during the summer, so I'm always on the lookout for oven- or stove-free dinner recipes. And what fits the bill better than gazpacho?

Gazpacho is a Spanish word meaning "cold soup for people who are too lazy to slave over a hot stove or even chew." It usually consists of many chopped vegetables in a tomato base -- think soupy salsa. This pure tomato version is an equally yummy alternative, takes 6 minutes to make from start to finish, and can stretch over many meals if you're eating for one (and gets better the longer it sits).

I adapted it from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food. And by "adapted," I mean "stole the ingredient list and made it completely different."

Ingredients

1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes (I used San Marzano, but that brand can be hard to find, so do whatever is cheap and available)
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes
2-3 tbsp. olive oil (or to taste)
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar (or to taste)
Salt and pepper to taster
Fresh basil leaves, whole (I used four big ones, but again, to taste. Can you tell I'm from the school of interpretive cooking?)

Pull out your blender. A food processor might work too, but I wouldn't know because Jacob's grandmother hasn't yet delivered on her promise to give us one as a housewarming gift ... I digress. If you try it in the processor, let me know how it goes.

For now, the blender. Pour in the can of whole tomatoes. Break apart the tomatoes with your hands (away from the blades, please). To be honest, I don't know if this carries any culinary benefit. It's just fun to make them squish. Then pour out 1/2 the can of diced. At least, that's about how much I could fit in my blender without fear of explosion. Feel free to experiment with your personal kitchen equipment.

Add the olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and basil leaves. You can substitute dried basil for fresh, but really, why would you want to? Fresh spells summer, and it's so easy to grow in a windowsill garden that even the blackest of thumbs have little excuse for not keeping it on hand.

Sorry. I digress again.

When it's all in the blender, cover and hit blend until it reaches the consistency you like. I was so excited about cooking something in 6 minutes without heat that I let the blender go awhile, and got a perfect creamy concoction. Only problem was, I was going for slightly chunky. So play around and see what happens.

For best results, stick the whole pitcher in the fridge for a couple hours to get it nice and chilled. Or, if you're in a hurry, you can probably blend in a couple ice cubes to speed the process.

The result: A tangy, basil-infused, fast, healthy, and beautiful soup that looks much fancier than it actually is, particularly if you are pretentious enough to garnish it with quartered plum tomatoes or parsley.

Serves 4 generous bowls. As for calories, who cares? It's vegetables. Give a prayer of thanks to St. Lycopene and dig in. Mangia!

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