Sunday, July 29, 2007


Chris and I used to make gazpacho together in our first apartment, or rather my first apartment --  a little tiny ground-floor studio caught between two air shafts half a block south of the George Washington Bridge. I'd of course lived in other places before, but this was the first place I had to myself, at least for those few months until Chris graduated, moved out of his dorm and in with me. It was a tight squeeze, that studio and two people and a cat, but we were happy there in "the cave," and loved cooking together. Or, in all honesty, I loved watching Chris cook, and I didn't mind chopping or slicing or dicing what ever it was he needed to throw in next. I knew next to nothing about cooking, other than my ever practical and infamous meringue cookies and gingerbread cake. We only lived there from May through November, perfect gazpacho-making season. Watching all those different colors, those different tiny diced vegetables, piling up in our big stockpot, was strangely one of my favorite things. The bright, juicy red of the tomatoes and red peppers, the green of the cucumbers and green peppers and jalapeno, the purple of the red onion, the orange of the carrots. The pungent smell of raw garlic and scallions. The slick of good olive oil and balsamic vinegar smeared across the top.

We continued to make gazpacho every summer, sometimes well in to the fall. We bought a blender, and contrary to many other mysteriously acquired kitchen appliances, quite often used it. One year we made several quarts (meaning, probably, close to three gallons, in one of our 12-quart stockpots) of gazpacho for a big summer birthday party. I was confused that, despite people's seeming enthusiasm for this dish, it didn't seem to be disappearing particularly quickly. Then I took a closer look at our guests' mode of consumption, and realized that somehow it had gone undetected that this was a soup (despite the stack of bowls and the ladle and the mug-full of spoons) and people instead were dipping their tortilla chips in the stockpot. Best salsa they'd ever had, or so I was told.

Anyway, to finally get to my point, I made a pot of gazpacho last weekend. This was my first time making it on my own, sans Chris's expertise and direction. It turned out relatively well, and both Mako and Dan seemed to enjoy it. Next time, though, more jalapeno.

6-8 largish ripe tomatoes
a red onion
a couple handfuls of baby carrots
a red pepper
a green pepper
a cucumber
a couple cloves of garlic
part of a jalapeno pepper
most of a 48-oz. bottle of V8 juice
balsamic vinegar
good olive oil
salt & pepper
Tabasco (or other hot) sauce

Chop all of the vegetables as small as you can stand without going stark raving mad. Also of course seed the peppers and cucumber. Dump 'em in a pot. Add V8 juice. Mix 'em all up. Transfer about half to a blender and blend until relatively smooth, and then transfer back to the soup pot. Add a few tablespoons worth of olive oil and vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate, preferably for a few hours. When it's good and cold, taste again and add a little more olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper if necessary. Serve, with Tabasco on the side.

Chris used to sometimes make up a mixture of diced avocado, red onion, salt, pepper, cilantro and jalapeno to serve on top of the gazpacho. This was really tasty. Also, every now and then, we would add some watermelon to the soup, some to be blended and some to be diced, which added a delicious sweet crispiness to the proceedings.

I served this last weekend with a baguette, sliced, with mozzarella, and broiled on the top rack of the oven until the bread was toasted and the mozzarella was melted and bubbling and slightly golden. You could add bits of garlic and fresh basil leaves to the toasts, if you have them on hand. I didn't, as my basil plant died last summer and I have yet to buy another one. Though my supposedly mint eggling has a striking resemblance to basil, despite the sticker on the box. Also with a bowl of Japanese wasabi rice crackers. And a New Zealand sauvignon blanc.

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