After months of maximizing their stoves, even the most ardent cooks need a break. For one thing, a heat wave was so powerful that 97 all-time warm records were set across the U.S. in the last 30 days alone. It’s simply too hot to cook anything that’s not reheated in a microwave. There’s also a degree of baking burnout: There aren’t as many sourdough loaves on social media as there were in the spring.
In short, it’s the perfect time to go with a dish that requires no cooking and minimal work: gazpacho.
The Spanish soup, a specialty of Andalusia in the southern part of the country, is made from a puree of fresh vegetables. There are countless variations: Any chilled soup, even one made from mango, might be called gazpacho. But the restorative classic is best made with produce that’s hanging out at your farmers market – namely ripe, juicy tomatoes, as well as peppers and onions.
Skye McAlpine, a food writer based in Venice, Italy, has an enviable Instagram account and an expert entertaining aesthetic. She is a gazpacho enthusiast. “It’s such a refreshing dish, and so quick. When it’s really hot, I don’t feel like cooking. I love that you just throw all the ingredients in a blender,” she says.
In her new book, “A Table for Friends: The Art of Cooking for Two or Twenty” (Bloomsbury; $28), which was released on Tuesday, there’s a recipe for the dish with an engaging twist. Instead of the classic stale bread to thicken the soup and soften acid from the tomatoes and vinegar, McAlpine uses an apple.
The result is an additional hit of fruitiness and cooling power in the already hyper-refreshing soup. It adds to the transportive feeling a good gazpacho suggests – that you’re hanging out in a splendid garden as you consume it. The apple replacement also makes the dish gluten-free for anyone with allergies or low-carb summer diet restraints.
McAlpine wrote “A Table for Friends” back when hosting a big group of people was appealing and not potentially dangerous. (“One thing I have really missed through quarantine: my friends,” she says.) Still, a lot of her recipes are geared for picnics and al fresco eating. And some of her entertaining tips for feeding people that don’t live in your house have staying power.
For one, she advocates against starters. She believes that first courses indicate a formality suitable to restaurants, not people’s homes. Cutting them out also saves time in prep and cleaning up. McAlpine serves her wonderful gazpacho for lunch, often with an accompaniment. Consider topping the soup with hard-boiled eggs (protein) and serving it with crusty bread and a plate of prosciutto or cheese (or both).
The following recipe is adapted from “A Table for Friends.” Use a food processor to chop as many of the ingredients as possible. “If I have time, I push it through a sieve to make it smoother, but if you’re happy with the texture, feel free to skip this step,” McAlpine says in her book.
I would argue that it’s well worth the effort unless you’re a high-fiber fanatic. Just be sure to use a coarse mesh strainer; if you use a fine one, you’ll be straining gazpacho all day.
2 ¼ pounds tomatoes, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 medium red bell peppers, deseeded and chopped
1 small, sweet apple, such as a Pink Lady, cored and chopped
¼ red onion, chopped
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus extra to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Hard-boiled eggs, sliced, for serving (optional)
Bread, for serving (optional)
Working in batches if necessary, combine all the soup ingredients except the salt and pepper in a blender. Blitz until smooth. Add 1 teaspoon salt and blitz again to combine; check for seasoning.
Season with pepper and more salt, if necessary. Pass the mixture through a sieve, pressing down on the solids. Refrigerate the soup for two hours or until chilled.
Drizzle the ice-cold gazpacho with oil. If desired, garnish with hard-boiled eggs and serve with bread.
Yield: 4 servings
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