PARIS — I’d like to nominate gazpacho for all-around best light, nutritious summertime meal. And if you have a backyard garden, you probably have most, if not all, of the fresh ingredients you need to make it.
Gazpacho is a tomato-based vegetable soup that originated in southern Spain and Portugal. It’s typically served cold in the summertime as a refreshing alternative to hot meals.
The ingredients vary somewhat by region or individual recipes, but usually include tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, onions, garlic, olive oil, wine vinegar or lemon juice and salt. Bits of stale bread or breadcrumbs may also be mixed into the soup.
Gazpacho is quick and easy to make. Search the Internet and you’ll find lots of recipes.
The primary work of making it is simply washing and chopping the ingredients. Since this is a no-cook dish, there’s nothing more to do except whip it up in a food processor or blender.
Serve it immediately at room temperature or store it in a pitcher or bottle in the refrigerator and serve it chilled.
Some people also do the blending by hand by pounding the ingredients with a mortar and pestle or other mashing tool and then mixing them all together. Doing it this way prevents the foaming that can occur when you use appliances like a blender.
There are lots of variations you can make. Some recipes call for added fruit such as pineapple, mango or watermelon. Another includes mint and parsley.
You can even vary the flavor and color of gazpacho by using different types of heirloom tomatoes. Fresh, locally grown tomatoes tend to be more flavorful than the hothouse tomatoes you’ll find in supermarkets.
You can also vary the texture of the soup. Some people like it chunky, with a consistency similar to salsa. Others like it smoother, with a consistency similar to cream of tomato soup.
In France, Belgium and other parts of Europe, you can find ready-to-eat (or drink) gazpacho sold in supermarkets in milk carton-like containers. One brand – Alvalle, now owned by PepsiCo – is absolutely delicious. We can only hope it makes it to the States soon.
Serve gazpacho in a bowl, cup or glass. Get creative with garnishes – a breadstick, croutons, or a few teaspoons of chopped tomato, onion, cucumber or peppers.
And think of it like salad in liquid form – a summertime staple.
Suzanne Hobbs is a registered dietitian and clinical associate professor of health policy and management and nutrition at UNC-Chapel Hill. Reach her at email@example.com; follow her on Twitter, @suzannehobbs.