Gazpachos are a most refreshing way I can think of to celebrate seasonal vegetables. The story goes that gazpacho, said to be the oldest known chilled soup, was popular in Spain's Andalusia region and in the Arab world going back hundreds of years. Farm workers would throw together stale bread and vegetables they had on hand.
The genre has definitely evolved since, and many American versions leave out the bread altogether.
Besides fresh vegetables, fruit and dairy are creative ingredients to blend into the versatile soup -- not to mention the accompaniments that can be piled at the center of a bowl: a jumble of salsa, nuts, bulgur, quinoa. They add substance without adding heaviness. Serving options are limitless and adaptable, from brunch to dessert.
On all of these recipes, the topping can be made and refrigerated several hours in advance. The gazpacho can be refrigerated in an airtight container for three to four days.
Think about making the accompanying recipes soon: One combines watermelon and tomato, making the most of what's at midsummer farm market stands. It's even better with a topping of avocado, basil and red onion.
I applied a lassi concept to iceberg lettuce -- innocuous, pale leaves I could not, for some reason, get my family to eat -- and came up with a thick and spicy gazpacho-style soup using iceberg lettuce. A plopped-in salad of fresh bean sprouts, cucumber and cilantro offers protein and crunchy contrast.
The berry-mint gazpacho is just right for dessert or brunch. Serve it with mascarpone, crème fraîche and even a scoop of ice cream for the kids.
1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped (2 cups packed), divided
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 cup fresh blueberries
5 tablespoons agave nectar
Pinch sea salt
10 mint leaves, stacked, rolled and cut into thin ribbons, divided
Peeled, sliced kiwi, for garnish
4 to 6 tablespoons crème fraîche, for garnish
1. Combine half of the chopped strawberries and all of the orange juice in a mixing bowl. Use an immersion blender to form a coarsely blended mixture.
2. Stir in the remaining chopped strawberries and the blueberries by hand (so they don't break up), then add the agave nectar, salt and half of the mint, stirring until well incorporated.
3. Divide among individual dessert bowls. Top each portion with a few slices of kiwi, a dollop of crème fraîche and some of the remaining mint. Serve right away. Makes 3 or 4 servings.
2 cups chopped, seeded watermelon
2 cups chopped tomatoes
16 large basil leaves, finely chopped, plus 4 large leaves, for garnish
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic scapes (see note)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the topping (optional)
Flesh of 1 firm, ripe avocado, chopped
½ cup finely chopped red onion
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon garlic-flavored olive oil
1 tablespoon good-quality balsamic vinegar
1. Combine the watermelon, tomatoes, finely chopped basil, garlic scapes, salt and pepper in a blender; puree until smooth.
2. Combine the avocado, red onion, feta, oil and vinegar in a medium-size bowl, stirring gently so as not to mash the avocado.
3. Divide the gazpacho among individual bowls; tear the remaining 4 basil leaves, letting the pieces fall onto each portion, or divide even scoops of the topping, if using, at the center of each portion. Serve right away. Makes 4 servings.
Note: Scapes are the stems garlic produces before bulbs mature; you can substitute 2 small cloves garlic, minced.
Spicy lettuce lassi gazpacho
For the topping:
1 cup fresh mung bean sprouts
1 cup seeded, chopped cucumber
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 cup finely chopped red onion
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons chopped cilantro
For the gazpacho:
½ head iceberg lettuce, rinsed well, then coarsely chopped
1½ cups cold water
Juice from 1½ limes
1 (1½-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger root, chopped
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 serrano chili pepper, seeded and chopped
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
¼ cup loosely packed chopped cilantro leaves
2 cups whole-milk or low-fat plain yogurt
1. For the topping: Combine the sprouts, cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, salt, pepper and cilantro in a medium-size bowl; stir to incorporate.
2. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
3. For the gazpacho: Combine the lettuce, water, lime juice, ginger, cumin, serrano and salt in a blender. Puree until smooth, then transfer to a mixing bowl.
4. Stir in the cilantro and yogurt, leaving some of the latter unblended.
5. Divide the topping among individual bowls, mounding it so some will show above the surface of the gazpacho. Slowly pour and divide the gazpacho among the bowls.
6. Drizzle with any remaining juices from the topping. Serve right away. Makes 4 servings.
Gazpacho with almonds
2 slices (3 ounces) rustic white bread, crusts removed, torn into pieces
¼ cup almonds (whole, roasted, blanched, sliced, slivered)
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
¼ cup good olive oil, plus more for garnish
1 small red pepper (or ½ large one), seeded and roughly chopped
2 pounds ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped, divided
1. Place bread, almonds, garlic, salt, vinegar, oil, red pepper and half the tomatoes in a blender. Process until smooth.
2. Add remaining tomatoes and process until smooth.
3. Add water if you like a thinner soup. Chill for at least an hour. Before serving, taste for salt.
4. Ladle into bowls and garnish each with a few drops of olive oil. Makes 6 cups.
-- ERICA MARCUS