Bring on the Gazpacho

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Rhonda Foshay’s gazpacho was one of the lovely little perks of participating in the Sunriver Art Faire every August.

Her husband, Paul, is a talented woodworker, and his booth of exquisite furniture and burl bowls always stood kitty-corner to my booth of landscape watercolors. Right around the noon hour, as long as an appropriate lull in the crowd persisted for a reasonable amount of time, Rhonda would reach into her cooler, bring out the gazpacho and give my husband and me the high sign: “Come on you two.”

Steve and I would comply, plastic cups and spoons in hand. Her gazpacho was loaded with their sun-ripened backyard tomatoes, plus a plethora of other seasonal specialties that one associates with a fine-tuned gazpacho, including crunchy cucumbers, sweet bell peppers and celery — with a garlicky, olive oil back. It would be delicious by any standard, but against the backdrop of Central Oregon high desert heat, that gazpacho was exquisite.

After several years of my pestering, Rhonda finally remembered to write out the recipe for me, which I’m more grateful for than ever now that we are no longer hanging together at outdoor art festivals.

When my own backyard tomatoes begin to ripen, it’s one of the first recipes I reach for. Indeed, the time to enjoy local sun-ripened tomatoes is upon us. They are one of the season’s blazing triumphs — plump and colorful to the eye, aromatic and juicy to the other senses. To say this blessing from nature represents the best of summer is hardly an overstatement.

In just a few weeks, we will be up to our eyeballs in them. But since the local tomato crop is just beginning to ripen, we have time to get our game plans in order. Within my own household, that translates into a bounty of BLTs; decadent pinwheel platters of juicy tomato slices with balsamic vinegar, fresh mozzarella and basil-infused olive oil; endless bowls of plump Sun Golds; and gallons of Rhonda’s Most Wonderful Gazpacho.

To get you started, here’s Rhonda’s take on gazpacho, plus another take, both celebrating one of summer’s most treasured gifts: tomatoes!

Rhonda Foshay’s Most Wonderful Gazpacho

3-1/2 cups tomato juice

4 medium tomatoes, cored and diced

1 cup peeled, seeded and finely chopped cucumber

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

1/2 cup finely chopped celery

1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper

2 tablespoons minced parsley

3 fresh garlic cloves, finely minced

1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely minced (plus more to taste)

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon ground cumin (plus more to taste)

1/2 teaspoon Tabasco (or other red hot pepper sauce; plus more to taste)

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a food processor, blend 1 cup of the tomato juice with half of the diced tomatoes, 1/2 cup of the cucumber, 1/4 cup of the onion, 1/4 cup of the celery, 2 tablespoons of the bell pepper, the parsley, garlic, jalapeno, vinegar, lime juice, olive oil, cumin and Tabasco. Blend until smooth.

Pour this mixture into a large bowl. Into the food processor, add the remaining vegetables, along with the remaining 2-1/2 cups of tomato juice; pulse a few times to create a slightly smooth texture, but not pureed. Add that mixture to the bowl, stir, then adjust seasonings. Cover and chill several hours or overnight.

Makes 8 to 10 servings

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More to Explore

Andalusian Gazpacho with a Twist

A Fresh Approach - Jan Roberts-Dominguez

This is a relatively classic Andalusian style gazpacho. The twist is that I’ve added the garnish from another tomato-based Andalusian soup, salmorejo. A classic salmorejo soup is garnished with hard-boiled eggs and Serrano ham (or Prosciutto). I’ve decided it’s also a nice ending for this recipe.

If you are questioning the sanity of placing those fresh, garden-ripened vegetables in the freezer for a brief moment, the reason is that by doing so the vegetables will release a little more juice (when thawed) that contributes to the broth during the preparation, so no other liquid is needed.

3 pounds (about 4 large) very ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into rough 1-inch chunks

1/2 pound (about 1 small) cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into roughly 1-inch chunks

1/3 pound (about 1 small) red onion, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

1/3 pound (about 1 medium) green or red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks

2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

4 ounces (about 2 slices) white sandwich, French or Italian bread, crusts removed, torn into rough 1-inch pieces (see note)

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

2 tablespoons vinegar (preferably sherry vinegar, or optionally, red or white wine vinegar), plus more for serving

2 tablespoons finely minced green onion

Freshly ground black pepper

6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped

About 4 ounces sliced and chopped serrano ham (or Prosciutto)

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, pepper, garlic and salt; toss to coat thoroughly. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to pull out the juices. Drain the juices into a large bowl and add the bread. Transfer the drained vegetables to a rimmed baking sheet and place in freezer until the vegetables have frozen, about 30 minutes (they don’t have to be rock-solid).

Remove vegetables from freezer and allow to sit at room temperature until mostly thawed and releasing more juices. Transfer the vegetables and all their juices from the pan to the bowl with the soaked bread.

Working in two batches if necessary, blend the vegetables, juice and bread at high speed, slowly drizzling olive oil and vinegar into blender with the motor running. For a very fine-textured soup, strain it through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Otherwise, simply scrape the pureed mixture into the bowl. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Chill for at least an hour. Can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

To serve, ladle into bowls, then drizzle each serving with olive oil and a few sprinkles of vinegar, extra freshly ground black pepper and green onion. Pass around the chopped egg and chopped ham for diners to garnish as desired.

Makes 6 servings

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