Easy gazpacho for an unseasonably warm day

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We got a nice little bit of Indian summer in the Bay Area this past weekend, after several chilly days that felt like early winter (well, winter in SF anyway). So instead of the hot dinner I’d planned on making, I decided to celebrate what might be summer’s last hurrah with the classic summery cold soup: gazpacho. There are so many variations on this theme out there: some thicken it with bread crumbs, others use lots of garlic and hot spice, but I wanted to go for something fresh and flavorful yet mellow in this recipe. This version lets the perfect  tomato essence shine through, complemented by the clean crunchiness of cucumber and red bell pepper, with a hint of cilantro and purple onion for a nice little bite. The sweet paprika adds a little je ne sais quoi, pulling all the flavors together. Makes 4 servings as a first course, serves 2 if it’s your main dish.

Ingredients:

  • 4 ripe red medium tomatoes on the vine
  • 2 small cucumbers (I prefer Persian cucumbers)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2 Tbsp red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika

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In a food processor (or blender), start by processing the onion, cilantro, olive oil, black pepper, and sea salt until they start to mix and hold together. Next, peel and trim the cucumbers and add them (I normally don’t peel my cucumbers, just wash them well, but in this recipe the dark green peel will throw off the color of your gazpacho). Process until you get a light green slightly liquidy mixture (about the texture of salsa verde).

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Next, roughly chop the bell pepper, removing stem, ribs and seeds, and add to the processor, along with the paprika. Finally, core and roughly chop the tomatoes, adding them to the mixture. Process until there are no large chunks left, but don’t completely liquefy – you still want a little bit of crunchiness between your teeth. Season with extra sea salt to taste. At this point, you can transfer to a serving bowl or individual bowls.

Drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil. If desired, garnish with cubed or sliced avocado. Serve cold.

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