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Gazpacho

3 pounds ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped (about 8 cups)4 (1/2-inch-thick) slices stale, crusty bread, soaked in water for 1 minute and squeezed dry2 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped (about 2 cups)1 small red pepper, seeded and chopped (about 1 cup)1/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion tops1 clove garlic, halved1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin, toasted lightly in a dry skillet1 1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt, plus more to tasteFreshly ground black pepper1 cup cold water5 tablespoons good sherry vinegar3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Puree all the ingredients in a blender until smooth and the texture of thick tomato juice. (Work in batches if needed to keep from overloading the blender.) Strain through a food mill or sieve to remove skins and seeds.

Chill overnight and taste, adding more oil, vinegar or salt if needed. Will keep refrigerated for several days. Serve in chilled glasses for sipping or in bowls topped with toasted croutons and a garnish of more chopped tomato, cucumber, bell pepper and/or green onions.

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