Friday, September 07, 2007

A Welcome Chill

September has brought to our part of California, as it often does, days of intense heat. The fog that often cools the air, at least at night, during the summer is missing so the smog increases and the house retains the heat of the day all night long. Without the marine layer, as the weather folks call it, the temperatures rise during the day into the 90s, which is hot in our neck of the woods.

A couple of evenings ago I was sitting in bed, with the fan going, reading a great cookbook called 'From A Cooks Garden'. I had a bunch of tomatoes on the kitchen counter that needed to be used before the heat turned them to sticky mush. This fine book had a recipe for Gazpacho that really looked good. As I read through it I realized that I had most of the ingredients in the kitchen and pantry. Clearly it was too hot to sleep. The gazpacho needed to chill 4 hours or overnight. Bingo! The light bulb went on over my head as it became clear that making the soup was the right thing to do, even though it was 10 PM. I am not a night owl and my eyes usually start to droop right around 10 PM, so this was most unusual.

So, in my cool cotton nightgown and with bare feet I headed for the kitchen to finely chop tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, pepper, and parsley.

Fortunately we live in the country so no one noticed that, bare foot and barely clothed, I went and harvested some dark basil by moonlight. Chopped, it went into the bowl. The red wine vinegar and olive oil were added, I gave it a good stir to combine the ingredients and into the fridge it went. By now it was after 11 and I was tired enough to go to sleep despite the heat.

Today we served the lovely gazpacho, full of the flavors of summer, to Grandma Loyce. We had invited her to dinner and were glad we could cheer her up on a day when she had to see her sister, a victim of cancer, for the last time at the mortuary. Loyce loved the soup and we did what family does at times like these and told stories of the past, shared laughter and sober thoughts, and reminded ourselves of how fortunate we are to have each other. The rest of the meal was great, too, but the soup was somehow comforting and a welcome chill, all at the same time.

Tami of Running with Tweezers is hosting the second annual Super Soup Challenge to honor her mom and to remind us that "food (and blogging) can heal the soul and bring people together" . This savory, full flavored soup from the garden, topped with garlic croutons, is summer comfort food at it's finest and, I believe, a worthy entry.

Gazpacho
From the Cooks Garden by Ellen Ecker Ogden

4 large tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
1 large cucumber, peeled and finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium red pepper, seeded and finely chopped
½ cup chopped fresh basil
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
chiffonade of basil for garnish

Garlic Croutons
4 slices French or Italian bread, cut into ½ inch cubes
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced, and salt, to taste

Mix all the gazpacho ingredients, except the salt and pepper and the basil garnish in a large bowl or puree’ in a blender, depending on if you like a rough or smooth textured soup. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

Meanwhile make the croutons. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the bread cubes, oil, and garlic with your hands in a large bowl until well mixed. Spread in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes. Stir to turn the croutons, and bake until golden brown, about 5 more minutes. Cool completely. Best used within a few hours, but they can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Serve the soup chilled, seasoned with the salt and pepper and garnished with the croutons and the basil garnish. Serves 8.

7 comments:

Peabody said...

A lovely entry that I am deathly allergice to...but it looks so vibrant and fresh!

african vanielje said...

I laughed at the thought of you harvesting basil by moonlight, like some pagan goddess. And I'm glad that loyce had a chance to be with family at a time like this. It's not easy to say goodbye.

BC said...

Fantastic lighting on the bowl of tomatoes. I should have whipped something up last night when I couldn't sleep!

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

I'm sure Loyce was soothed from having you all to be with at such a sad time.

Great gazpacho and story of how you came to make it. I like going to pick things in the garden at night.

DaviMack said...

Fabulous! I wonder if the Scots would do gazpacho... since they seem to have a tomato fetish (they eat them with breakfast, as well as on every salad).

veron said...

Yes, this is a refreshing soup for those hot summer days. Isn't it just lovely to be struck with such inspiration!

Elle said...

Peabody, Wish you could eat tomatoes...you would probably make a divine baked good with them.

Inge, A pagan goddess...hmmm, I like that! Eating together as family always helps when times are tough...it is hard to say goodbye.

BC, Thank you for noticing the photo. It was an unusual shot for me.

Amanda, Loyce was comforted. Harvesting by moonlight is easier if you already know what you are looking for, seen by daylight :)

Davi, If the Scots love tomaotes somuch, I bet they have a version...probably called something other than gazpacho though.

Veron, Yes inspiration strikes so rarely, but it's nice when it does.