This time of year, there are two types of people: first, there are the ones who are ecstatic about the drop in temperature, the cooler nights, the early hints of fall in the air. Then there are the people grasping at summer by their fingernails, trying to wring every second out of the daylight hours, the warmth, the sun.
Guess which one I am?
Don’t get me wrong, I love spring and fall–even winter, for about a week–and could never live in a climate without all four distinct seasons. But I always panic a little this time of year, feeling like I haven’t taken the fullest advantage of these long, hot, sunny days, the beautiful lakefront I am lucky enough to live and work within 2 miles of, this incredible summer city. I just need more time!
Gazpacho seems to be one of those quintessential summer dishes that I have somehow never made. The infinite variations intimidated me, honestly; how could I be sure which one I would like without wasting the ingredients? Last week, though, one of my favorite stands at the market was selling it, and it looked too amazing to turn down. I asked the guy serving it if he had a recipe and he said no, but he was more than happy to share his process with me (I love that he managed to work “brunoise” into the conversation, by the way).
The recipe below is my take on his instructions and, I have to say, while it was nothing like the version he sold, it was fantastic in its own right. It is essentially summer in soup form, the highlights of the season distilled down into a single bowl.
And so, for the last weekend before September, Labor Day, fall, I will be savoring a few more days of 90-degree weather, hitting up some festivals, eating some great food, and just appreciating what the summer in Chicago offers. I couldn’t be more lucky.
Edible Summer (aka Gazpacho)
Makes 6-8 generous servings. There are two essential steps: letting the tomatoes marinate at least an hour before blending, and letting the soup rest overnight for the best flavor. And, if it needs to be said, the quality of the ingredients make this soup, so buy the best and freshest you can find.
4-5 cups roughly chopped tomatoes, heirlooms if available
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves roasted garlic (a head of garlic, drizzled with oil, wrapped in foil, and roasted at 350 for about an hour)
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 cups diced tomatoes
2 cups fresh corn from about 2 ears, grilled if you have time
1 1/2 cups finely diced cucumber, about one large
1 cup finely diced zucchini, about one medium
1 cup finely diced yellow or orange bell pepper, about one large
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
1/2-1 teaspoon finely chopped serrano, seeded and veins removed
2-3 tablespoons thinly sliced basil leaves
Salt to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
Roughly chop enough tomatoes to equal 4 heaping cups. In a large bowl, toss tomatoes with salt, oil, garlic, and vinegar. Allow to rest until the tomatoes release their juice, 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, dice the remaining vegetables.
Once the tomatoes are very juicy, use an immersion or regular blender to puree them until smooth. Depending on how juicy your tomatoes are, you may need to thin the soup a bit; add water by the tablespoon until it’s a little thinner than a cream soup. Add the remaining chopped vegetables and basil, stir to combine, and salt to taste.
Let soup rest overnight, taste again and adjust seasoning as needed; it will keep in the fridge, improving in flavor, for at least two more days. Serve as-is, or top with a thin drizzle of excellent olive oil, avocado, and/or shrimp and enjoy the taste of summer.