It's finally high season for tomatoes, which means it's the perfect time to make summer's most forgiving soup, gazpacho. For years, the only gazpacho on restaurant menus was tomato based, but now you'll often find almond, grape and melon versions too. As I'm sure you've figured out by now, this perfect hot-weather soup is simply a salad in liquid form, which means it's one of the easiest dishes to make. All you need to get started is a blender and some super-tasty, juicy tomatoes, cut into large chunks. The tomatoes that are sold bagged at the end of the day at farmers' markets are ideal, but a mix of heirlooms would be perfect, too. An easy rule of thumb is three parts tomatoes to one part other ingredients, such as red, yellow and green bell peppers, onions, garlic, scallions, peeled cucumbers and seedless watermelon, all cut into chunks. I sometimes add parsley, cilantro or any other leafy herbs that I have in the fridge. Pack the vegetables in the blender, starting with the tomatoes because they're the juiciest. Add a good splash of red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar and a bigger splash of extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground pepper, then puree until chunky or smooth. If you want to make a really thick gazpacho, soak a few pieces of country bread in water, squeeze dry and add them to the blender along with the vegetables. Pour the gazpacho into a bowl and season the soup to taste with salt and pepper and additional vinegar and olive oil. At this point, you can refrigerate it overnight. Serve it on its own or garnished with a drizzle of olive oil, finely diced vegetables, a dollop of tapenade or pesto, crisp croutons, crabmeat, poached shrimp or lobster. Some of my favorite gazpacho recipes include the following: Grape and Almond Gazpacho, Gazpacho Gelees with Avocado Cream, Watermelon Gazpacho and Yellow Gazpacho with Lobster and Avocado.
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