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Traditional Gazpacho

Traditional Gazpacho
When the weather is hot and the tomato season is at its peak, make a huge batch of this soup. Bread is traditionally incorporated into the soup base (gazpacho means "soaked bread" in Arabic). Here, it is added later, in the form of garlic croutons, preferably warm, for a wonderful contrast of temperatures and textures.

Ingredients:

  • 6 to 8 large beefsteak or other full-flavored
      tomatoes
  • 1 small sweet yellow or red onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 6 Tbs. red wine vinegar, or to taste
  • 2 regular or 1 English (hothouse) cucumber,
     halved, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 Tbs. for
     frying croutons
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 3 or 4 slices French or Italian bread, each 1 inch
      thick, crusts removed and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 small green bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 1/4 cup finely minced red onion

Directions:

Bring a large saucepan three-fourths full of water to a boil over high heat. Have ready a large bowl of ice water. Meanwhile, cut a shallow cross in the blossom end of each tomato and then remove the core. Carefully slip the tomatoes into the boiling water for 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to the ice water to cool. Remove from the water and peel immediately. Cut the tomatoes in half crosswise and squeeze out the seeds. In a blender or food processor, puree 3 of the tomatoes until liquefied and transfer to a large bowl. Reserve the remaining tomatoes.

Put the onion in the blender or food processor. Chop 3 of the garlic cloves and add them as well. Puree, adding a bit of the vinegar if needed for a smooth consistency. Add to the bowl with the tomato puree. Add the cucumbers with a little of the vinegar to the blender or processor and pulse until they are coarsely chopped. Add to the bowl as well. Chop the remaining tomatoes coarsely in the blender or processor. Add to the bowl. Whisk in the 1/2 cup olive oil and the remaining vinegar, and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate until well chilled, about 2 hours.

Just before serving the soup, in a large fry pan over medium heat, warm the 2 Tbs. olive oil. Crush the remaining garlic clove, add to the pan and cook to release its fragrance, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the bread cubes and stir and toss until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain; keep warm.

Taste the soup and adjust the seasonings with salt. Ladle into chilled bowls and garnish each serving with the diced bell pepper and the minced red onion. Float the croutons on top and serve.
Serves 6 to 8.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Lifestyles Series, Soup for Supper, by Joyce Goldstein (Time-Life Books, 1998).