Summertime…the cucumbers are growing and ripe tomatoes are high.
Your kitchen’s hot and your Cuisinart is hungry,
so hush ‘what’s for dinner?’.
Gazpacho―it’s your summer ally!
I am lucky to live just around the corner from an amazing organic farm in the Soquel Hills that cultivates an auspicious variety of summer fruits and vegetables. The farm is nestled in the rich, loamy valley of the Soquel Creek protected by water on one side and redwoods on another. I visit Everett Family Farm almost every other day and choose from the plethora of garden-fresh organic produce, eggs and flowers (it’s still pay on the honor system). I feel assured that everything that I buy there is truly organic because the farm is certified by CCOF. I drive by many a farm stand that claim to be organic but don’t bother to be certified by a USDA third party certifier. They hope to skip the cost of certification even though the 2014 Farm Bill allows for certification cost share. Well, I simply skip right by those farm-stands and choose the local farmer who is certified organic!
The days become hot and sunny once the coastal fog burns off. This allows for my little farm to produce juicy red and yellow heirloom tomatoes, elongated striped cucumbers and blocky green bell peppers. The crisp butter crunch romaine and flamboyant basil garnish the displays of perfect white onions and red rouge garlic cloves. As I walk inside the farm stand I realize that everything is spread before me just in time to make my unending repertoire of gazpacho recipes!
Besides it’s just too hot to cook!
Every summer I get out my Cuisinart, sharp knives and a smooth, wooden cutting board from my grandmother. I set about with a spicy gleam in my eye and a primal hunger for everything fresh, juicy and raw. The basic ingredients to any gazpacho are pretty simple: ripe tomatoes, turgid cucumbers, blocky peppers of any color, pungent garlic, and mild sweet onion with dashes of olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. After you assemble and gently wash these ingredients it’s all about how finely you cut, chop or blend them. Texture and seasoning are the fundamental – wild cards. It’s easy and fun!
Tomatoes are the background and foreground of any respectable gazpacho and I always choose organic. For one thing I think they taste better being grown on soil that is full of living microbes and nutrients. Another reason is because they are healthier. According to a 2012 study conducted at the University of Barcelona, organic tomatoes contain higher levels of phenolic compounds or antioxidants. The latest research from the University of Newcastle in the United Kingdom also confirms that organic food has more antioxidants, less pesticide residues, and less toxic heavy metal contaminants. In addition to the health benefits I like rewarding those who are stewards of the earth and farm organically.
Gazpacho is so easy and so good for you. After cutting and combining the ingredients it is important to chill it for a few hours because the longer gazpacho sits, the more the flavors develop. Once I prepare the basic recipe I get a little racy and start experimenting. For one variation I add cayenne, lemon juice or cumin, and oregano. Basil, cilantro, chives or parsley are also good herbal companions . Then throwing caution to the wind I shake in a little Worcestershire sauce, garbanzo beans and even basil, oh my! Each variation is a reflection of my mood: do I feel calm and smooth with every ingredient finely blended and awash with red wine balsamic, or do I feel daring and spicy, dicing up jalapeños and avocados. The variations are quite endless and absolutely delicious!
Use your favorite search engine to find an endless array of gazpacho recipes, then experiment with them and let me know what you have enjoyed along the way!
Need some inspiration first? How about my twist on the song “Summertime”…
One of these mornings, you’re going to rise up singing.
Then you’ll spread your knives and go to the farm.
Organic tomatoes with juicy cucumbers can’t harm you.
Enjoy your fresh gazpacho with friends and family standing by.