Washington - The story goes that the gazpacho, said to be the oldest known chilled soup, was popular in Andalusia and in the Arab world, where farmworkers would throw together stale bread and vegetables they had on hand. The genre has definitely evolved since.
My own adventures with gazpacho began when I was in grad school in Ames, Iowa, in need of a meal I could put together fast and carry in a thermos. All it took was enough planning to allow the mix - typically cucumbers, tomatoes and onions - to “cure” overnight in the refrigerator.
After I moved to Seattle for work, trips to Pike Place Market inspired me to branch out, ingredient-wise. I reached for summer squash, beets, rainbow carrots.
I am now one of those people who get excited about trying new vegetables, and I look for ways to incorporate them into my family's diet. These days I'll find gazpacho fixings at the farmers market and in the bins at international food stores.
Fruit and dairy are fair game, too, for blending into the versatile soup - not to mention the accompaniments that can be piled at the centre of a bowl: a jumble of salsa, nuts, bulgur, quinoa. They add substance without heavying things up. Serving options are limitless and adaptable, from brunch to dessert.
One of the accompanying recipes combines watermelon and tomato. I once served it at a baby shower, in keeping with the pink, girly theme. It's even better with a topping of avocado, basil and red onion.
I applied a lassi concept to iceberg lettuce - innocuous, pale leaves I could not, for some reason, get my family to eat - and came up with a thick and spicy gazpacho-style soup. A plopped-in salad of fresh bean sprouts, cucumber and cilantro offers protein and crunchy contrast.
My berry-mint gazpacho is just right for dessert or brunch. I've served it with mascarpone, creme fraiche and even a scoop of ice cream for the kids. Next time, I might go the sundae route, with a selection of ice cream flavours and decadent toppings.
What started out as my portable grad school meal has come full circle. As a soccer mom whose life is spent shuttling kids from one activity to another, I find myself making these overnight refrigerated soups and carrying them with me - in multiple thermoses to keep all of us replenished.
Spicy Lettuce Lassi Gazpacho
4 servings (makes 4 cups)
The colour is pale, but the flavour is quite vibrant.
MAKE AHEAD: The topping can be made and refrigerated several hours in advance. The gazpacho can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days.
For the topping
1 cup fresh mung bean sprouts
1 cup seeded, chopped cucumber
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons chopped cilantro (coriander)
For the gazpacho
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, rinsed well, then coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups cold water
Juice from 1 1/2 limes
1 1/2-inch piece peeled fresh ginger root, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 serrano chili pepper, seeded and chopped
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1/4 cup loosely packed chopped cilantro leaves
2 cups whole-milk or low-fat plain yogurt
For the topping:
Combine the sprouts, cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, salt, pepper and cilantro in a medium bowl; stir to incorporate. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
For the gazpacho:
Combine the lettuce, water, lime juice, ginger, cumin, serrano and salt in a blender. Puree until smooth, then transfer to a mixing bowl.
Stir in the cilantro and yogurt, leaving some of the latter unblended.
Divide the topping among individual bowls, mounding it so some will show above the surface of the gazpacho. Slowly pour/divide the gazpacho among the bowls. Drizzle with any remaining juices from the topping. Serve right away.
Nutrition Per serving: 130 calories, 9 g protein, 21 g carbohydrates, 2 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 1,310 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 14 g sugar
4 servings (makes 4 cups)
The combination of fruit works surprisingly well here.
MAKE AHEAD: The gazpacho can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days. The optional topping should be assembled just before serving.
For the gazpacho
2 cups chopped, seeded watermelon
2 cups chopped tomatoes
16 large basil leaves, finely chopped, plus 4 large leaves, for garnish
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic scapes (may substitute 2 small cloves garlic, minced)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the topping (optional)
Flesh of 1 firm yet ripe avocado, chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon garlic-flavoured olive oil
1 tablespoon good-quality balsamic vinegar
For the gazpacho: Combine the watermelon, tomatoes, finely chopped basil, garlic scapes, salt and pepper in a blender; puree until smooth.
For the optional topping: Combine the avocado, red onion, feta, oil and vinegar in a medium bowl, stirring gently so as not to mash the avocado.
Divide the gazpacho among individual bowls; tear the remaining 4 basil leaves, letting the pieces fall onto each portion, or divide even scoops of the topping, if using, at the centre of each portion. Serve right away.
Nutrition Per serving: 40 calories, 1 g protein, 10 g carbohydrates, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 540 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 7 g sugar
3 or 4 servings (makes about 3 1/2 cups)
Fruit that's a bit past its prime is perfect for this cool application.
You'll need a stick (immersion) blender; alternatively, the strawberry-orange juice mixture can be mashed by hand to a coarse consistency.
MAKE AHEAD: The gazpacho can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days.
1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped (2 cups packed)
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 cup fresh blueberries
5 tablespoons agave nectar
Pinch sea salt
10 mint leaves, stacked, rolled and cut into thin ribbons
Peeled, sliced kiwi, for garnish
4 to 6 tablespoons creme fraiche, for garnish
Combine half of the chopped strawberries and all of the orange juice in a mixing bowl.
Use the stick blender to form a coarsely blended mixture.
Stir in the remaining chopped strawberries and the blueberries by hand (so they don't break up), then add the agave nectar, salt and half of the mint, stirring until well incorporated.
Divide among individual dessert bowls. Top each portion with a few slices of kiwi, a dollop of creme fraiche and some of the remaining mint. Serve right away.
Nutrition Per serving (based on 4): 170 calories, 2 g protein, 42 g carbohydrates, 1 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 70 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 35 g sugar
* Massachusetts freelance writer Tilak blogs at www.worldlyvegetarian.com. On Twitter: @vtilak.