Gazpachos are the most refreshing way I can think of to celebrate seasonal vegetables. The story goes that the gazpacho, said to be the oldest known chilled soup, was popular in Andalusia and in the Arab world, where farmworkers would throw together stale bread and vegetables they had on hand. The genre has definitely evolved since.
My own adventures with gazpacho began when I was in grad school in Ames, Iowa, in need of a meal I could put together fast and carry in a thermos. All it took was enough planning to allow the mix — typically cucumbers, tomatoes and onions — to “cure” overnight in the refrigerator.
After I moved to Seattle for work, trips to Pike Place Market inspired me to branch out, ingredient-wise. I reached for summer squash, beets, rainbow carrots.
I am now one of those people who get excited about trying new vegetables, and I look for ways to incorporate them into my family’s diet. These days I’ll find gazpacho fixings at the farmers market and in the bins at international food stores.
Fruit and dairy are fair game, too, for blending 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 heavying things up. Serving options are limitless and adaptable, from brunch to dessert.
Think about making the accompanying recipes soon: One combines watermelon and tomato, making the most of what’s at midsummer farm market stands. I once served it at a baby shower, in keeping with the pink, girly theme. 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. A plopped-in salad of fresh bean sprouts, cucumber and cilantro offers protein and crunchy contrast.
My berry-mint gazpacho is just right for dessert or brunch. I’ve served it with mascarpone, crème fraîche and even a scoop of ice cream for the kids. Next time, I might go the sundae route, with a selection of ice cream flavors and decadent toppings.
What started out as my portable grad school meal has come full circle. As a soccer mom whose life is spent shuttling kids from one activity to another, I find myself making these overnight refrigerated soups and carrying them with me — in multiple thermoses to keep all of us replenished.
Massachusetts freelance writer Tilak blogs at www.worldlyvegetarian.com. On Twitter: @vtilak. She’ll join Wednesday’s chat at noon: live.washingtonpost.com. Ice Lab Ice Sculptures online: www.iceicemaybe.com/#icesculpture.
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