I can’t figure out why certain rituals ingrained in us from childhood stick with us and others don’t, but I know for sure that on the hottest days of summer, my first thought is to figure out what cold food I can prepare. With my mom, it was always the BLT. As reliable as the daily weather prediction in the newspaper, the hot weather signal in our home was my mom slicing tomatoes and spreading Miracle Whip on two slices of Wonder Bread. If we ever asked about the BLT’s, the response was always something along the lines of, “you don’t eat hot foot on hot days.”
Decades later, when I see a heat wave coming on, my thoughts turn to the BLT. I’ve evolved through the years to include the ALT (avocado, lettuce and tomato). I’ve added tomato, mozzarella, basil and balsamic sandwiches to my hot temperature line up, too. I have a tuna salad recipe with beans and artichoke hearts that makes its way to the forefront of hot weather, but when the sun is at its hottest (and, not coincidentally, when the tomatoes are at their juiciest), there’s no question: it’s gazpacho.
It took me a few years of living in a dry, arid climate to appreciate the idea of cold soup. Midwestern born and raised, I struggled with the idea of a soup that wasn’t hot. Soups are supposed to hibernate during summer months, or so I was raised to believe. It changed for me one night during a hot, hot, late night in the cul-de-sac when our Spanish neighbor came out with a set of glasses and a pitcher, and began pouring us the only drink we’d had that evening that wasn’t spiked with alcohol. Because of this introduction to gazpacho, I still like to drink it out of a glass sometimes. Just like the BLT’s of my childhood, gazpacho is becoming, for my children, a sure sign of sweltering heat.
This recipe is very forgiving. If I don’t have a cucumber, I add more celery, for instance. If I don’t have hot sauce, I dice a small jalapeno pepper in its place. Sometimes, I throw in some lime juice for good measure. The basic recipe is as follows.
Makes six servings
4 cups tomato juice
1 ½ cups tomatoes, chopped and with the seeds squeezed out
1 green bell pepper, diced
½ cucumber, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
¾ cup green onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
5-6 dashes hot sauce
Place ingredients in batches in a blender and blend until desired consistency. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours before serving in glasses or bowls.