For the first week in Chicago we were treading lightly. Promises were made to have the gas stove working in our apartment within a week although the landlord said it probably worked already. Fearing a Looney Tunes style explosion, and lacking any training in the practical sciences, I stayed clear of the oven altogether. With the summer heat I hardly missed it, and a week went by of salads with tinned sardines, hiyayakko, tartare, and, if I woke up early enough, I could make it to the farmer’s market for a few tomatoes to make gazpacho. The recipe, which I’ve honed over the years, couldn’t be simpler and, like the genius cold ramen, it relies on a touch of vinegar to increase its refreshing bite.
The landlord returned the next week, turning the dial of the gas range for a few seconds of clicking before a perfect ring of blue flames emerged. He gave me a look, saying nothing, but I could read his mind and it wasn’t very nice.
makes about a quart
2 lbs plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 red bell pepper
2 slices of bread
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
salt, to taste
1 Persian cucumber (optional)
a few slices of bread for croutons (optional)
Put the tomatoes and about 3/4 of the red pepper, roughly chopped, in a food processor and pulse a few times. Lightly dampen the bread and add that, plus the garlic, sherry vinegar, and olive oil, to the food processor and blend until very smooth. Add salt and continue to blend, tasting until properly seasoned. Strain through a coarse strainer, so that only the tomato skins and seeds are removed, but the soup retains a thick texture. Chop the last quarter of the bell pepper and the cucumber finely, and make croutons, if you would like, by toasting some slices of bread with olive oil and chopping it into squares. Serve the soup and garnish with the pepper, cucumber, and croutons, to your taste.
Jeffrey Ozawa is a writer and cook living in Chicago. His blog, Gorumando, explores life’s pleasures through food.
(Photo: Jaimie Lewis of Machins Choses)