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Stone Fruit Gazpacho

Gazpacho is one of those dishes I keep in the back of my mind whenever the temperature creeps over 75. When I was a kid, we lived in Northern New Jersey where summers could have long stretches of hot, muggy days one right after another. These usually were broken up by a massive thunderstorm that dropped the temperature 15 degrees in a few hours but until then, my mother described them as “miserable” and “beastly”. She would keep a giant can of tomatoes in the back of the fridge for days just like this when it was simply too hot to turn on the stove except for small bursts of absolute necessity.

She shared the recipe with a friend who was getting married in a handmade cookbook that covered everything from appetizers to vegetables and desserts and especially, soups and stews. When my siblings and I got a sight of it, we all asked for a copy. In the years since my mother died, it’s become a book of memories and touchstones. There’s the recipe for fried rice, that in today's light is slightly racist. There’s the recipe for her boeuf bourguignon, versus Julia’s. There’s the recipe for chocolate mousse that is a unquestionable tradition with my siblings and I and one that we’ve extended to our friends and families (even if I make mine differently now).

And of course, there’s the gazpacho, pictured above. Her’s is the recipe I use to learn to make gazpacho. It’s solid, easy and approachable. But like the chocolate mousse, in the years since I’ve been cooking professionally, I’ve since moved on to other ingredients and other techniques. My business partner makes an astonishingly good and fragrant one that I’m envious of. Yet, when it gets hot, I always toss a can of tomatoes in the fridge and (because it’s an absolute necessity) fry up some bacon to garnish.

This week, it’s been brutally hot in San Francisco, combined with choking smoke from wildfires not far away. Combined with the pandemic, it’s just safer to stay inside, despite the fact that turning on the stove with the windows sealed feels repellant. Looking in the fridge, I see the contents of my vegetable box and realize that the nagging idea of gazpacho might not be such a bad one after all. For me, this soup is as comforting as any chicken noodle.

I improvised this dish, using what was on hand and following the basics of cold gazpacho to make it savory and satisfying and filling and most of all, cooling. I had an abundance of of the kind of stone fruit we get in California and it seemed a shame not to use them in place of the tomatoes while I had them. I encourage you to learn the basics of gazpacho and make one that is your own, or at least is yours at that moment. Follow the garnishing I suggest here, or do what I did for the photo and start pulling random stuff (like pickled fennel and zucchini) from the fridge. Make this your own.

Summer Stone Fruit Gazpacho

1. To start, toast about ½ cup of slivered almonds until they’re brown but make sure they don’t burn. Set aside.

2. I had 3 white peaches, 2 yellow plums, and one nectarine that needed to get used up. Slice then and remove the pits and place in a bowl.

3. Add 4 cloves of garlic.

4. Add ½ a yellow or red pepper, roughly chopped.

5. Add ½ a large cucumber, roughly chopped.

6. Add 2 tsp of smoked pimenton or paprika.

7. Add a couple of generous fingerfuls of kosher salt

8. Add few good grinds of black pepper

9. Give all this a good toss and add the almonds and toss again.

10. Place everything in a powerful blender and add tablespoon or two of good sherry vinegar. Don’t skimp here. It’s worth it.

11. Puree the whole mass, stopping to scrape the blender jar if needed. When it’s almost smooth taste it and add more salt if needed. Then add about ¾ cup of good grassy olive oil. The kind you may not use for frying but have set aside for salads. Continue blending until it’s perfectly smooth.

12. Place the blender jar in the fridge and let it chill for an hour or two. You could also make this in the morning so its fully chilled for dinner.

13. Fry some thick bacon and chop up. If you’ve got a hardboiled egg lying around, chop that up too.

14. Dice the other half of the cucumber. Do the same with the rest of the red pepper.

15. Put a little pimento in a small serving bowl.

16. Chop up some basil if you have it. Got some parsley, chop some of that too.

17. Slice up more stone fruit of you have it.

18. Put some Greek yogurt in a bowl.

19. If you’re serving a crowd, it’s fun to set all the garnishes out and let people serve themselves. This way your vegetarian/vegan friends can enjoy everything too. Ladle up the gazpacho into large mugs or bowls and pass them around. This makes enough for about 4 people. Serve it with a good crusty French bread and ice cold rose.

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