Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Vegetable Gazpacho: Perfect for a Hot Summer Night

Sometimes in the summer - especially a North Carolina summer - you just don't feel like cooking. The thought of turning on a hot stove and then standing over it for 30 minutes or so sounds unbearable. But just because you don't want to cook anything, doesn't mean you have to miss out on a healthy, homemade meal. Besides, getting takeout usually involves going outside, which will probably be hotter than turning on the oven anyway. And we all know that homemade food is better for you than takeout (not that the occasional Thai takeout meal hasn't saved me during pregnancy-induced exhaustion). But making something at home is definitely the better bet when you can. Although I love me some salads, sometimes I want other options for no-cook dinners. So instead of eating vegetables tossed in salad dressing, I blended them all together and made gazpacho. This delicious, cold soup - usually made with tomatoes - fits the bill perfectly for a healthy meal that requires absolutely no heat. It's full of good for you veggies and heart healthy fats like avocado and a touch of olive oil. I served the soup with some crackers spread with a bit of cheese and had a delicious dinner that didn't cause the temperature in my house to raise one degree. I used a blender and did the pureeing in batches. A food processor would also work, just be careful to not overfill it. Most gazpacho recipes call for onion, but I don't really like the bite of raw onion so I left it out. But feel free to include a small onion or other vegetables that you like: bell peppers would also work nicely. Basically you can throw the whole vegetable garden in there and create a delicious soup that takes very little time to prepare.
Vegetable Gazpacho

  • 2-3 large tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced; reserve 1/2 of 1 cucumber
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1/2-1 cup tomato or vegetable juice
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 bunch basil, divided
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2-1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
In a blender or food processor, chop up tomatoes, 1.5 cucumbers and zucchini. Add about 1/4 cup tomato juice to help the vegetables combine. Do this in batches if needed, making sure everything is finely pureed.
Dice the remaining 1/2 cucumber into small cubes and reserve.
Roughly chop half of the avocado and add to the blender. Cut the other half into cubes and reserve.
Chop half the basil and add to the blender. Thinly slice other half and reserve.
Add balsamic vinegar, 1/4 - 1/2 cup tomato juice, juice of half a lime, and about 1/2 tsp of salt to blender and puree until well combined. (Amount of salt will vary depending on saltiness of tomato juice).
Pour all of the pureed soup into a large bowl. Stir in diced cucumber (I like the added texture, but puree everything if you want a totally smooth soup).
Add more tomato juice if too thick. Stir in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add more lime juice, if desired.
Soup can be served immediately or refrigerated for up to a day before serving.
Garnish each bowl with a few chunks of reserved avocado and ribbons of basil.

For a printable recipe click here

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