Wednesday, October 5, 2011


I love this time of year! Vine maples begin turning from deep green to a vibrant orange and red. They're always the first to signal the new season. Dahlias and chrysanthemums add strong, warm color to the yard, and also signal football tailgating season. (Go Dawgs!) Remember those huge pompom mum corsages? The transition from summer to autumn is visible in the landscape and at the market. Peppers and chiles call my name, vine-ripened tomatoes tempt me, and braids of garlic promise to add a sweet, hot punch to any dish.

Peppers, chiles, tomatoes, garlic - you know that leads to gazpacho, a wonderful cold, salad-like soup that bursts with flavor. On a warm, Indian summer sort of day gazpacho is the perfect way to enjoy ripe vegetables without heating up the kitchen... or having to work very hard. You chop a lot, stir a little, and presto! you have gazpacho. 

We enjoy it as an easy appetizer, light but satisfying while waiting for the coals to heat up in the barbecue. Pair a shrimp-topped bowl of gazpacho and a platter of quesadillas and you have a filling lunch or light supper.  

Influenced by a recipe in Jake’s Seafood Cookbook, McCormick & Schmick, 1991
Serves 4 bowls or 6 small cups.

2 TB chopped garlic
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs, no crusts
3 cups low-sodium V-8 juice
1 poblano pepper, small dice
2 red or yellow peppers, small dice
4 tomatoes, peel, seed and dice
1/2 medium onion or a handful of scallions, small dice
1 cucumber, peel, seed and dice
1/4 cup olive oil
3 TB red wine vinegar
1 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. Tabasco or your favorite hot sauce

Optional Toppings:
8 oz small shrimp
diced avocado
fresh cilantro or parsley, coarsely chopped
  1. Combine garlic, bread crumbs, half of the V-8 juice and half of the green pepper, tomatoes, onion and cucumber in a food processor and puree. 
  2. In a pitcher or bowl, combine the puree with the remaining V-8 juice, diced veggies, oil, vinegar and seasonings. Blend with a spoon. Soup should be thick, chunky and slightly glossy from the oil.
  3. If fresh or frozen shrimp are not available, top with fresh cilantro or parsley, cubed avocado or commercial salsa  (Do not use canned shrimp!! They’re nasty.) 
On the boat, when fresh vegetables aren't always available, I have used canned tomatoes, chopped garlic in a jar and jars of roasted red peppers to substitute for fresh. The substitutions work just fine, as long as there is some crunch from scallions, celery, cucumber or whatever fresh vegetables are available. Fresh or frozen corn has even made an occasional appearance. Frozen pepper strips are too soft to add much texture, but will work to flavor the puree. 

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