Every summer growing up in Fort Smith, Mom would make Summer Soup a few times. The recipe was from her best friend Isabel, and when we ate at her house, she’d also have Summer Soup. (Isabel also served her own dill pickles, the world’s best.) That recipe, at bottom, will take you back to the kitchens of the 1950s and ’60s. It was healthy and tasty, but for nearly three decades I’ve been preparing gazpacho, inspired by folks like Jacques Pepin and Caprial Pence.
I make gazpacho just once every summer. It’s not that the prep is complicated, kind of long but not bad, but … I don’t know. But I just changed one thing, and now have made it twice in three weeks. It was inspired by a couple of tangential remarks in food blogs about hot soup made with water instead of stock, occasionally, for a fresher taste. Hmm. The base of seemingly every gazpacho recipe is supermarket tomato juice, sometimes V8. If the point of summer soup is to use garden-fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers, why cloud it?
A 46-ounce can or jar of low-salt tomato or V8 juice can replace the water here, and it will intensify the flavor and provide that gazpacho mouth-feel. But if there is nothing like home-grown tomatoes, try this way. Then it’s more Summer Soup than Gazpacho.
To make a whole-meal soup, add 2 cups of garbanzo or cannellini (white kidney) beans with the diced veggies at the end. That’s a 14-ounce can; rinse and drain the beans first.
Gee, whiz? I avoid pureed soups at restaurants; I want to see what I’m eating. But it’s needed here. Reserve some of the veggies, blend the rest and return the chopped to the bowl so diners can appreciate what they’re eating.
Bitter cukes? One day too long in the fridge, and cucumbers get nasty. Sometimes they just come that way from the store or farmer’s market. Don’t ruin your soup, taste each cuke as you start to cut it and toss it in the compost if it doesn’t pass muster. Seeding sometimes can rescue an in-between cuke. It’s worth running back to the grocery for better ones.
Make the soup at least four hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate to marry flavors. Serving either at room temperature or icy is great.
The soup will start to turn after four or five days, so eat up! [August 2016 update: Another way to ensure the soup won’t spoil is to halve the ingredients.] [For a complete vegan meal, add a can of garbanzo or cannellini beans including their liquid in Step 5, then puree; you may need less added salt.]
Gazpacho Summer Soup
- 1 pound cucumbers (3-4 small-medium), peeled
- 2 pounds tomatoes, cored
- 2 bell peppers, cored and seeded, red or green
- 1 large onion, peeled
- 1/4 cup black, green or cured olives, (about 12), pitted and chopped, optional
- 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and rough-cut
- 1 teaspoon sweet (regular, not smoked) paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon, scant, cayenne pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons Balsamic vinegar or 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons lemon or lime juice
- Up to 6 cups water
- Make garnish first: Peel and seed (scoop with a spoon) 1 cucumber, reserve seeds, and dice the meat. Cut the prettiest tomato in half and squeeze out the pulp and seeds, reserving those, and dice the meat. Dice the best pepper. Dice half the onion. Put a heaping half cup of each of these into a small bowl, add the optional olives, and set aside.
- Put the remaining dice (and cucumber and tomato pulp) into a 3- or 4-quart, wide-mouth refrigerator jar or tub (a large, steep-sided mixing bowl will work, too).
- Rough-chop remaining pepper, cucumber, onion, tomato into 2-inch chunks and add to the big container, along with the garlic, oil, vinegar and lemon juice.
- Grind spices, salt and pepper together in a coffee grinder, and add the mix to the container.
- Add about half of the water to the container — and optional beans with aquafaba) and puree with a stick (immersion) blender. Or whiz in batches with a jar blender or food processor.
- Stir in to the soup the reserved diced vegetables and enough of the remaining water for your preference of consistency (though it’s better soupy than stewy.) Cover and refrigerate. Before serving, taste and perhaps add a squirt more lemon juice or a quarter-teaspoon of salt and/or ground black pepper. Makes at least eight servings.
Here is the recipe from which the above evolved: Isabel Marks’ Summer Soup: 1 Tablespoon distilled vinegar; 1 teaspoon salt; 2 Tablespoons olive oil; 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce; 6 drops Tabasco sauce; 1 large can tomato juice; 1 small jar pimento, undrained; 1 small can mushroom pieces and stems, drained; 1 large onion, peeled and chopped; 1 large cucumber, chopped; 4 tomatoes, peeled and chopped. Combine all ingredients and chill a day before serving. May need more salt. Makes 2 1/2 – 3 quarts. (The original called for a tablespoon of salt — maybe canned tomato juice was less salty back then.)