Yesterday, the first ripe tomato of the season in my garden was ready to be picked. Grape and cherry tomatoes have been teasing us with one or two ripe ones every day or two, but yesterday was a great day. Not only have the tomatoes started to ripen (thanks to the warm nights), but also, local peaches have started to show up at the roadside stands. There has been either tomato or peach juice dribbling down my chin for 24 hours.
In honor of the arrival of tomato season, here’s my favorite gazpacho recipe:
Fill a medium saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Using a sharp knife, make an X on the bottom of each of 2 pounds tomatoes and add to the water for 15-20 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon. Using a sharp knife, peel the skin from the tomatoes and discard. Stem the tomatoes, then quarter lengthwise and scrape out the seeds and membranes. Save for the compost pile. Transfer the tomatoes to a large bowl.
Stem 1 each large red and green pepper, then quarter lengthwise and scrape out the seeds and membranes. Discard. Chop the peppers and reserve 1/4 cup of each for the granish. Add the remaining peppers to the bowl with the tomatoes.
Using a vegetable peeler, remove alternating lengthwise strips of skin from 1 cucumber. Quarter the cucumber lengthwise but don’t remove the seeds. Chop the cucumber and reserve 1/2-cup for the garnish. Add the rest to the bowl of vegetables.
Cut 1 day-old French Baguette into 1/2-inch cubes to equal 3 cups. Add half to the bowl of vegetables and reserve the other half for the garnish. Add 3 cloves garlic to the bowl of vegetables. Process half the vegetable mixture in a food processor or blender for several seconds, then transfer to a large bowl. Puree the other half and add to the bowl. Stir in 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1tablespoon white wine vinegar and 2 teaspoons sea salt. Add 8 ice cubes, crushed. Taste and add more salt, if needed. Cover and refirgerate until icy cold, for an hour or as long as 1day.
For garnishes, have ready three small bowls. Mix the reserved peppers and cucumber and place in one bowl. Cut off the roots of one bunch green onions and all but 1 inch of the green stems, then chop. Chop two hard-cooked eggs and combine with the green onions in another bowl. These garnishes can be assembled 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.
Pour enough additional olive oil into a medium skiller to cover the bottom generously. Place the pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the reserved bread cubes and and cook, stirring, until golden, for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove and cool, then place in the third garnish bowl. Leave uncovered at room temperature for as long as 4 hours.
Serve the soup in 4 large bowls or 6 small ones. Arrange the garnishes on a tray and pass to guests, or sprinkle each serving with some of the garnishes.