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Summer Vegetable Gazpacho

Summer Vegetable Gazpacho
In Spain, the vegetables for this chilled soup are traditionally warmed in the summer sun, to release their flavors. It is also common to season the soup with a little of the famed local smoked paprika. Serve the gazpacho with Garlic Toasts (see related recipe at left).

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups young balsamic vinegar
  • 2 lb. ripe tomatoes
  • 1 English (hothouse) cucumber
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 3 slices day-old sourdough French bread, crusts
      removed and torn
  • 3 cups tomato juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for
      garnish
  • 1 Tbs. mild smoked Spanish paprika (pimentón
      de La Vera
    )
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbs. finely shredded fresh cilantro
  • 2 Tbs. finely shredded fresh mint
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped lemon zest

Directions:

Pour the vinegar into a small saucepan and place over low heat. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 1 1/2 hours. The vinegar will have become syrupy. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Transfer the syrup to a small bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. For this recipe, you will need 2 Tbs. plus more for drizzling; reserve the remainder for another use. (The balsamic syrup will keep, tightly capped, for up to 1 month.)

Peel, seed and finely chop the tomatoes and cucumber. Finely chop the onion. Seed and finely chop the bell peppers. In a large, nonreactive bowl, combine the bread slices and 1/2 cup of the tomato juice and let stand for 10 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, yellow and red bell peppers, garlic, broth, the remaining 2 1/2 cups tomato juice, the 2 Tbs. olive oil, the 2 Tbs. balsamic syrup, the paprika and cumin, mixing well. Season with salt and pepper. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour to blend the flavors.

Transfer 4 cups of the tomato mixture to a blender and process until smooth. Return the pureed mixture to the bowl, stirring well. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.

When ready to serve, in a small bowl, stir together the cilantro, mint and lemon zest. Ladle the soup into chilled bowls and sprinkle each serving with an equal amount of the shredded herb mixture. Drizzle a little olive oil and balsamic syrup over each serving. Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Entertaining, by George Dolese (Oxmoor House, 2004).