As I write this the sky is grey and half the cottonwood leaves have given up, leaving their limbed perch and floating downward to rest on the ground. Yet the garden has not quite relinquished summer to the cooler nights and northern winds. A last round of tomatoes and peppers are hanging on the vines, soaking up scattered sunshine and the final warm days of the year. While the sweaters are calling from the back of my closet I’m not quite ready to trade my flip flops for fuzzy slippers. In a last hurrah of summer I am taking the tomatoes and peppers and turning them into the quintessential summer soup- gazpacho.
The recipe for this gazpacho came from a session my mom attended at the Seed Saver’s Exchange camp out. (I was off attending a session on hoop houses, yes call me a greenhouse nerd!) A local chef made gazpacho with ingredients fresh from the farm, which my mom declared absolutely delicious. Unfortunately she did not get his name but she did get a copy of the recipe. Now here is where I must confess my mixed feelings about gazpacho. Good gazpacho can be an elusive thing. It requires a balance of texture and flavors that not all chefs or home cooks achieve. If the balance is off you may end up with either a bowl of salsa or a watery tomato puree- neither one gives gazpacho a good name. I have tried different recipes for gazpacho before but have not been thrilled with the outcome. As I read through the ingredient list for this recipe I was intrigued by the use of a cooked mirepoix for the base of the soup. Additionally, only half of the vegetables are pureed leaving the rest to add textural interest.
The use of a food processor makes short work of pureeing half the vegetables and if you are like me and find dicing a therapeutic activity then cutting the rest into nice even pieces will be easy. Once mixed together the gazpacho needs to hang out in the fridge for at least three hours and preferably overnight. During that time all the flavors will meld together into a sum that is greater than their individual parts. When we sat down to enjoy the finished soup I was delighted at the perfect texture. A smooth puree supported crunchy bites of fresh vegetables while liquid from juicy tomatoes kept the bowl firmly in the soup camp instead of salsa. The mirepoix added an excellent earthy undertone to the bright garden and citrus notes, rounding out the soup and balancing the sweetness of vine ripened tomatoes. My only complaint about this gazpacho is that I didn’t have the recipe earlier in the summer!
2 Carrots, peeled and diced
2 Stalks Celery, diced
1 Onion, diced
3 Tablespoons Olive oil
Salt and Pepper (to taste)
Soup – Note: Only chop or dice half the quantities of each vegetable. The rest will get pureed in a food processor so there is no need to waste time cutting them up!
3 lbs Fresh ripe tomatoes, chopped
3 Cucumbers, peeled and diced
2 Green peppers, destemmed, seeded, and diced
2 Jalepenos, destemmed, seeded, and minced
3 Cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups Water
1/2 cup Extra virgin olive oil
2/3 cup Red wine vinegar
1 Lime, juiced
1 Lemon, juiced
Salt and fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
Cook the Mirepoix
Place a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil, carrots, celery, onion, and salt and pepper. Stir the ingredients and saute gently until the carrots are softened and the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.
Prepare the Soup
Place the cooked mirepoix and the uncut half of the soup vegetables in a food processor. Add the water and olive oil and process the mixture until it is a smooth puree. Transfer the puree to a large bowl. Stir in the remaining chopped and diced vegetables. Add the red wine vinegar, lemon juice, and lime juice. Stir well, taste, and add salt and pepper as needed. Cover the gazpacho and store it in the fridge for at least 3 hours and up to overnight. Serve chilled.