By Jessica Roy Gazpacho is a quirky name for a classic Spanish cold vegetable soup that makes for a refreshing summer supper. The roots of this dish come from Spain and Portugal, where traditionally it is made with a variety of raw vegetables especially including bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic, cucumbers, and stale bread. Today's technology allows us to use kitchen appliances to easily blend the veggies, whereas the more laborious use of a mortar and pestle would have been required along with some serious elbow grease.
In the spirit of transparency, I'm going to be honest and say that I am not really a huge fan of the old school raw gazpachos. I find that they often lack in flavor, and remind me of a healthy smoothie drink rather than dinner option.
However, I gave myself a bit of creative license to play around with the technique to give gazpacho a second chance in my repertoire, and found that my favorite version came when I ditched the raw element, and roasted the veggies.
I know, I know -- if it's supposed to be a cold soup, why waste time cooking the ingredients? Stick with me here because the payoff is worth it. Roasting the vegetables brings out a bolder flavor profile, allows for the sugars to caramelize, and especially with the peppers, adds a smoky richness. We'll leave the cucumber raw for a cool crisp complement to the rest of the ingredients, and in this case, I'm omitting the bread which is most commonly used as a thickener.
The texture of a gazpacho is quite subjective as some people prefer a super smooth bisque-like soup, while others enjoy a more rustic result with bits and pieces of vegetables present. For this recipe, we're going smooth, but stirring in some fresh corn at the end for a little surprise flavor pop. Garnish as you like with herbs, additional diced veggies, sour cream or queso fresco.
Chef's note: In a pinch, you can use store bought fire roasted red peppers from a jar.
Summer Vegetable Gazpacho
2 red bell peppers
1 lb. whole tomatoes
2 large shallots
2 cloves garlic
2 ears of of corn
1 garden cucumber
3 cups vegetable stock
2 tsp. sherry vinegar
Salt & pepper
Olive oil, as needed
Sour cream, for garnish
Chopped chives, for garnish
Place the bell peppers over direct flame on the burner of a gas stove or grill, or place under a flame broiler until the skin is blackened, turning to char all sides. Remove the peppers from the flame and place in a bowl. Cover the bowl with foil and allow the peppers to sit for about 10 minutes. Next, remove the charred skin of the peppers, and wipe clean any black flakes with a paper towel. Peel open the peppers, remove the core and any seeds and discard. Set the cleaned roasted peppers aside until remaining vegetables have been prepped.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with foil. Core and cut the tomatoes into quarter-inch thick slices. Cut the shallots into quarter-inch slices, and quarter the garlic cloves. Arrange the tomatoes, shallots and garlic onto the baking sheets, and drizzle each with 1 Tbs. olive oil. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and roast for 15-20 minutes until edges of vegetables are lightly browned.
Remove the husks from the corn, and slice the corn off the cob. Arrange the corn on a baking sheet lined with foil. Drizzle with 1 Tbs. olive oil, and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes. Remove the corn from the oven, reserve half and set aside.
Peel the cucumber, cut it in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds with a spoon. Cut into 1 inch pieces, and place into a blender along with the roasted peppers, tomatoes, shallots, garlic, and half of the corn. Pour in the stock and 2 tsp. sherry vinegar. Blend until smooth, season to taste with salt and pepper, and strain if desired. Chill the soup in the refrigerator for one hour prior to serving.
To serve, stir the reserved roasted corn into the blended gazpacho, and save some to top each serving of soup as garnish along with a dollop of sour cream and fresh chives.
Jessica Roy is a specialty chef and caterer, food writer and chef instructor, and owner of Shiso Kitchen in Somerville, where she teaches classes. Follow her at http://blogs.lowellsun.com /yourpersonalchef.