Serves 6 to 8
3 or 4 large tomatoes, peeled if desired, cored and quartered
1 medium Vidalia, Walla Walla, or other sweet onion, quartered
1 red or yellow bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded, and cut into pieces
2 or 3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 cucumber, peeled if waxed, cut into 8 or 10 pieces
1 jalapeno or Serrano chile pepper, seeded and chopped, optional
About 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice or balsamic vinegar
About 1 tablespoon olive oil
4 or 5 shakes Angostura bitters, optional
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground pepper
8 or 10 fresh basil leaves, minced
When tomatoes are ripe and in season this simple, savory soup is the perfect way to begin a meal, or to enjoy for lunch, perhaps with some bread and cheese. This is not a ho-hum, cold, watery soup; it is packed full of flavor. If you don’t want to roast and peel the pepper, you can use it raw. If you like psicy food, use the chile pepper-if not, leave it out. The soup can be made well ahead and refrigerated. It should be served cold, however, not straight out of the refrigerator–allow it to sit out at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes. I like this best garnished with homemade garlic croutons.
In a food processor, combine the tomatoes, onion, pepper, garlic, cucumber, and chile if using it. Process, using the pulse button, until it is almost pureed. There should be a few bits of vegetable to bite down on; it should not be totally smooth. Stir in 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice, olive oil, bitters, salt, pepper, and basil. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
Remove from refrigerator about 20 minutes before serving and taste for seasoning; adjust with vinegar or lemon juice, salt, or pepper. Serve cold garnished with croutons.
Allow about 1 slice of bread per person. These are so good, you’ll want to make extra to snack on while you are cooking. I like to use a good, hearty, country-style bread to make these, but you can use leftover baguettes, wheat, even rye or pumpernickle bread to make croutons-I often mix them.
About 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 large or 8 small to medium slices of whole-grain bread cut into large, bite-sized cubes
3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
About 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh, minced thyme leaves or a scant teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat the olive oil and butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. When the butter is melted add the bread cubes and toss to coat. Sauté and stir for about 4 or 5 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and toss and stir for 3 or 4 minutes more. Reduce heat to medium low if necessary. Add the paprika and season lightly with salt and pepper. Toss for another minute or two and taste for seasoning.
Turn the croutons onto a pan or plate to cool, or serve immediately, as needed. These can be made ahead, but if the kitchen is humid they will get soggy if allowed to sit too long. They can be quickly reheated if need be. Garnish the soup with the croutons just before serving and pass any extras in a bowl.