This recipe is a classic American gazpacho -- no bread, no almonds -- that uses tomato juice to bring it all together. Because it is not utterly dependent on ripe local tomatoes, it can be made year-round using the pretty-good tomatoes-on-the-vine you find at the market. You could roughly chop all the ingredients and throw them into the blender, but hand-chopping the vegetables into like-size cubes makes for an impressive presentation. Garnish with croutons, chopped black olives, diced avocado or anything else you fancy.
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
2 small red bell peppers (about 1 pound), cored, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
2 small cucumbers (about 1 pound), one peeled and the other with skin on, both seeded and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 small sweet onion (such as Vidalia, Maui or Walla Walla) peeled and minced
2 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
2 teaspoons table salt
1/3 cup sherry vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 cups tomato juice
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (optional)
Extra-virgin olive oil for serving
1. Combine the tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, onions, garlic, salt, vinegar and pepper in a large (at least 4-quart) nonreactive bowl. Let stand until the vegetables just begin to release their juices, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato juice and hot pepper sauce. Cover tightly and refrigerate to blend flavors, at least 4 hours and up to 2 days.
2. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper; serve cold, drizzling each portion with about 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil and topping with the desired garnishes.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.
Adapted from "Cook's Illustrated."