In this country, when the menu says gazpacho, the popular Spanish summer soup is all too often a pulverized, watery mess of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers that can be acidic and hardly refreshing. That's not what chef Carole Greenwood serves at Buck's Fishing & Camping on upper Connecticut Avenue. "I hate it when it's all pureed up and nasty," she says.
Instead, Greenwood's popular tomato- beet-sweet-corn gazpacho is a carefully chopped assemblage of heirloom and cherry tomatoes, several varieties of roasted beets (but never ruby), the sweetest cucumbers and onions she can find, whatever corn tastes best the day she makes it, extra-virgin olive oil and white balsamic vinegar. "This one always sells," she says. "It really highlights what's fresh."
The soup -- she makes about a gallon of on weekdays and two on weekends -- isn't always the same. It depends on what Greenwood finds at the farmers markets. Sometimes the varieties of beets or tomatoes change; sometimes she adds chopped avocado. Occasionally, Greenwood uses the soup as a platform for half a grilled lobster or some grilled shrimp. Other days, she's stuffed tomatoes with it and topped them with lobster claws. "The acid of the tomatoes and the richness of the shellfish work well together," she says.
She's also served it as a kind of pasta sauce for ziti or fusilli that are first dressed with more olive oil and sometimes parmesan cheese. And Greenwood has even made sweeter versions by adding roasted cherries or diced roasted white peaches. "The yellow ones are way too acidic," she says.
In the fall, she uses the same approach for autumn vegetables such as butternut squash, sweet potatoes, maybe turnips, more beets and greens. Some nights it's a soup, and sometimes it's more of a salad.
Greenwood never pretends she's making the original Spanish version. "I just take the idea of gazpacho," she says. "It's more a theme than a recipe. It's all the things I love."
The tomato-beet-sweet-corn gazpacho is $7 at Buck's Fishing & Camping, 5031 Connecticut Ave. NW; open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday., 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Sunday, 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The restaurant will be closed from Aug. 15 to Aug. 23. 202-364-0777.
-- Judith Weinraub