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Chicagoistapacho: A Surefire Way to Beat the Heat

By Caroline Clough in Food on Jul 11, 2007 6:36PM

2007_july_chicagoist_gazpacho.jpgIf you're like Chicagoist then you're a warrior. A warrior without air conditioning. And in times like these, hot times … in the city, it's best to know all sorts of tricks for cooling down. There's the lake, there's the public library, most restaurants and, of course, lying very still with fans on every side of your body. Those are just a few ways of keeping cool without the aid of energy draining, electric grid straining pure 100% Freon (that's still what it is, isn't it?). But there are other ways. Like meals that don't involve the kitchen stove. A perfect example of at least part of a meal, though easily a main lunch course, is gazpacho. Ah, gazpacho the lovely summer soup everyone, herbivores and omnivores alike, can enjoy. When Chicagoist was a little one we weren't overly fond of gazpacho. We didn't get the concept of cold soup and we weren't overly fond of hot tomatoes (unless they came on top of our sauce) but we're all grown up now and have concocted our own mix of fresh veggies that we think will lower your internal temperature a little bit.

Many gazpacho recipes include celery and white bread. They add celery because, for some unknown reason, many people like the way it tastes. The white bread is used as a thickener. Chicagoist doesn't like celery and finds the bread unnecessary so we don't use it and find that our version tastes fresher and looks better. Of course if you find that you like celery (what's wrong with you?) or that the gazpacho isn't as thick as you'd like then, fine, add those two things. Though we beg you to at least try our rendition before adding any thing else.

What You Need:

1 food processor (or blender) with one, if not two work bowls
6 ripe, juicy tomatoes (if you have access to heirlooms you are lucky and should use them), seeded and quartered (we used three rather small tomatoes and two bigger ones)
1 large cucumber, seeded and cut into two or three inch chunks
1 ½ medium green peppers, seeded and cut into smaller pieces
2/3 cup green (snap) beans cut into one inch pieces
½ Vidalia onion (white will do if you can't find a Vidalia), roughly chopped
½ red onion, roughly chopped
½ bunch cilantro, washed with stems removed, chopped or unchopped
6 medium to large whole garlic cloves
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons tarragon or salad vinegar
3 tablespoons Gorgonzola blue cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lemon's juice
1 cup water

What You Do:

1. Have all your vegetables chopped, seeded and organized.

2. This makes more soup than one work bowl can process. If you have two that is best but if you only have one it's okay too. Simply divide your ingredients in half and do the whole thing in batches.

3. Start with your tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, beans and half a cup of water. Put all that in your food processor and turn the processor on. Let run about twenty seconds or so. Then, using a cake spatula, scrape the edges and then pulse a few times until the mixture is free of any chunks (we like our gazpacho to be as smooth as the processor will allow).

4. Next add the onions, garlic, cilantro, salt, vinegar, cheese, olive oil and lemon juice. Oh yes, and the remaining ½ cup of water.

5. Pulse again until the mixture is free of any recognizable chunks of veggie goodness.

6. Transfer to a large bowl, cover with saran wrap (or a plate) and place in the refrigerator to cool.

7. When you serve, garnish with cilantro and perhaps a dollop of sour cream or plain, non-fat yogurt.

Thoughts or variations:

1. This makes about 12 cups of gazpacho. Enough to serve six or to eat throughout the week. However it's best freshly prepared and doesn't really gain much by a long time hanging out in the fridge.

2. If you do have access to heirloom tomatoes you could make a green gazpacho by simply using exclusively Green Grape or Green Zebra varieties.

3. The garlic and cilantro give the soup a bit of a kick in terms of spices and flavor but you can ramp it up even more by adding a hot pepper or two … with or without seeds.

4. Some people blanch and peel their tomatoes when making gazpacho. We don't.

5. Though we've already mentioned our aversion to bread and celery in the soup you can add almost any vegetable to the mix for added flavor peaks. For example, radishes can add an additional kick and corn can add another color into the palette. Any number of herbs can replace, or be added to, the cilantro.

6. If the soup is too chunky you can add more water and process again for a thinner final product.