If you've ever made gazpacho, you probably know that it's one of those dishes for which you hardly need a recipe. It's just a matter of taking beautiful tomatoes, peppers, cukes, garlic and onions, adding a splash and a glug, respectively, of good vinegar and olive oil, and hitting blend. I'm usually not one to follow a recipe, either, but I'd never let summer pass without making this dressy gazpacho from Matt and Ted Lee, whom you may know from their Southern cookbooks or their television show, Southern Uncovered. Their riff on a recipe from the seminal Southern cookbook The Virginia Housewife (published in 1824) still starts with tomatoes, but there's also watermelon for sweetness, roasted habanero for heat, and a lovely little buttermilk-dressed crab and avocado salad that gets dolloped in the soup.
It's one of those cooks'-best-friend recipes because it is perfect for lunch or for company. It's a great summer starter because it can be made well ahead, and if you're just having a cocktail party on the lawn or your rooftop, it's a stunning hors d'oeuvre—put it in anything from a shot glass to a Dixie cup.