Few soups are simpler than this summer classic, but here I make it slightly more complicated by giving the vegetables a quick turn over a smoky fire to lightly flavor them, not cook them. Although I like raw bell peppers on their own or as part of a crudité, I think that they can be a bit of a flavor bully in this soup. For that reason, find the sweetest red or yellow bell pepper you can—by no means should you use a green bell pepper for this.
1 pound ripe heirloom tomatoes, cored and quartered
1 large cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 red or yellow bell pepper, stem and seeds removed
1 onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 clove garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
Place all of the vegetables on a small flameproof baking sheet and set it on a grill adjacent to the coals of a small fire. Add some strong-flavored wood chips such as hickory or maple and cover the grill. Smoke for 3-5 minutes to just barely flavor the ingredients.
Place the tomatoes into a blender and use a spoon to lightly crush them to release some of their juices. Puree the tomatoes until smooth. This will provide the liquid necessary to puree the other vegetables. Add the other vegetables along with the olive oil and vinegar, and season generously with salt. Puree until all the vegetables have broken down and the soup has a smooth consistency. You may need to ass a little water, depending on the moisture content of the vegetables. If so, do this just a few spoonfuls at a time, check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.
I am conflicted on chilling this soup, as I think it can numb the flavors, but it does offer a welcome refreshing quality. So go with what you prefer, room temperature or chilled.
Divide the soup among bowls and, if desired, drizzle with lemon-infused oil, basil oil, or more extra-virgin olive oil.
Makes about 2 quarts or 6 to 8 servings.
Smoky Gazpacho From Where There’s Smoke printed by Sterling Epicure 2013 pg. 80
Gazpacho photo: Katie Stoops
Headshot: Allie Cottrill