Soups and Gumbo

Backyard Gazpacho

During these sweltering months, I take pure pleasure in light, casually elegant and effortless meals. This is one of those recipes I keep at hand when I’m desperate for a dish celebrating the season and all of its offerings without making one feel weighed down. Gazpacho reminds me of summer evenings spent in our small backyard garden in Louisiana gathering Creole tomatoes and emerald cucumbers to be sliced and humbly seasoned with a generous sprinkling of salt and a splash of vinegar. These simply dressed vegetables graced our table every evening, and for me, gazpacho delightfully embodies the essence of summertime and the grassy sharpness of the beloved backyard garden.  

Our short story begins with tomatoes and cucumbers chopped into laidback chunks, tossing into a colander and scattering with a lavish sprinkling of salt. The salt will draw water from the vegetables, leaving you with a wonderfully intensified flavored gazpacho achieved effortlessly. Pile the rest of the ingredients into a deep bowl and using an immersion blender leisurely whirl everything together until you are left with a smooth, cool puddle of lusciousness. To make the gazpacho even more velvety smooth, pass through a food mill or a fine sieve. All that’s left is to make the soup as piquant as you desire. Keep in mind, when served cold, the flavors are subtly muted. This is the time to be bold, darlings. 

This gazpacho is an elegant starter at a summertime feast, but it’s balanced enough to stand on its own as a light lunch when served with resoundingly crunchy and beautifully bronzed garlic toast to dip into the cool shallow pool of rhapsodically coral gazpacho. Within a matter of moments, summertime is served without ever breaking a sweat. 

Backyard Gazpacho

Serves 2

Gazpacho can be made in a few days in advance and stashed away in the fridge until ready to serve. PS The addition of bread adds both ballast and a silky creaminess to the dish. 

4 medium sized tomatoes, cored, roughly chopped 

1 small cucumber, peeled, roughly chopped 

Sea salt 

1 cup stale bread, roughly chopped

1 small green bell pepper or large banana pepper, deseeded, roughly chopped 

1 garlic clove, peeled

¼ cup olive oil, plus more for serving 

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar 

10 or so dashes Louisiana hot sauce 

Black pepper, for serving 

Garlic Sea Salt Toast, recipe below 

Toss the tomatoes and cucumber in a colander with a good pinch of sea salt and toss everything together. Let sit in the sink for 10 minutes, shaking the colander every once in a while. This step will help draw out excess water in the tomatoes and the cucumber leaving you with a more intensely flavored gazpacho.  

Toss everything together with the exception of black pepper in a bowl and whirl together with a blender or an immersion blender, adding more sea salt and blend until smooth. Adjust the salt, vinegar and hot sauce at this point. Strain the soup through a food mill or a sieve for a silky texture. Serve with a little black pepper sprinkled on top, a few puddles of olive oil and Garlic Sea Salt Toast. 

Garlic Sea Salt Toast

Serves 2

Olive oil 

2 slices sourdough bread, halved crosswise 

1 small garlic clove, peeled

Sea salt  

In a skillet over medium heat, add enough oil just to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the bread and fry until golden brown. Flip and fry the other side, adding more oil if needed. Place the toast on a plate and rub the entire surface of each piece with fresh garlic. Season with a sprinkle of sea salt. Serve hot!