Now that we're fully into summer and garden-fresh tomatoes are showing up in markets, it's gazpacho season at my home! I often make a red-wine gazpacho for outdoor dinners, but that felt a little too rich with Cincinnati's hot and humid weather these past few days. So I've gone back to a recipe I had made for a book club meeting that I'd hosted last year. I had wanted to introduce my friends to sea fennel and also make a light starter, since a few people were watching their calories ahead of bathing suit season, and that's where gazpacho fit the bill.
This traditional Spanish cold soup, which is really low in calories but high in flavor, works beautifully with sea fennel, a unique plant that can still be found on rocky coastlines in Greece. I remember friends telling me how they used to wander along the craggy shores, picking it for their lunch. Luckily for us here in the States, sea fennel, or kritamo, as it's called in Greek, is now grown sustainably (and organically!) by small Greek farmers. You can enjoy it's antioxidant-rich, briny flavor in so many ways. In Greece it's usually eaten with tomatoes, on Greek salad....and by Greek salad I mean the real Greek salad, not the ones you find in the US (read one of my first blogs to learn more about that pet peeve of mine!). So gazpacho is a natural fit for sea fennel, and this blend of Spain & Greece make for a great example of all the goodness of the Mediterranean Diet. Enjoy!
1-1.5 lbs tomatoes (ripe and flavorful), peeled and seeded, diced
1/2 cucumber, peeled & seeded, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
2-3 tbsp of red wine vinegar
2 slices of white bread, soaked for a couple minutes in a bowl of water
1 handful of sea fennel, coarsely chopped
A few sea fennel leaves to garnish
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Blend in a large blender or food processor the tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, garlic and red wine vinegar.
Cut off the crusts from the bread slices, squeeze out the water, and add to the blender. Blend well until you have a nice, velvety mixture. Add the chopped sea fennel, salt and pepper to taste.
Place your gazpacho in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours before serving. If you're making it last minute, though, you can also serve with ice cubes if you're really desperate. Either way, do garnish it with a few leaves of sea fennel and a dash of ground pepper...and if you really want to go Greek, add some crumbled feta, too! With fresh, crusty bread on the table, you'll have an easy winner for any picnic, bbq, lunch or dinner!
* You can substitute the fresh tomatoes with a good quality one-pound can of whole, peeled tomatoes...but if you can get to a farmer's market or even use your own, you'll really see the difference!
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