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By Charlie Burke

This cold summer soup originated in Spain, in the region of Andalucia, but soon
was served all over Spain, with as many variations as there were cooks.
Traditionally it contains bread and more olive oil than in this recipe; Spanish
soups are usually a substantial part of the meal or are a meal in themselves. Here
it’s treated like a liquid salad, served ice cold, a refreshing start to a summer
meal or a light lunch with crusty bread.

I don’t think I’ve made it the same way twice because the acidity and flavor of
tomatoes vary, requiring more or less vinegar and salt, and sometimes an extra
tomato is added.

Once you’ve made this basic recipe you’ll probably do the same. Most recipes
call for red wine vinegar, but I prefer sherry vinegar. When seasoning with salt,
add slightly more than usual because cold soups require more.  The vinegar can
be adjusted even when the soup is cold. Adding acidity "brightens" the flavor of
soups and sauces, as it does here, and is a good trick when a recipe just doesn’t
taste "right."

Use the best-tasting fresh tomatoes for this easy preparation. If your watching
simple carbohydrates, it’s fine without the croutons.

Six servings:

2 large tomatoes (about 1 ¾ - 2 pounds)
1 medium cucumber, peeled if the skin is tough, and roughly
1 red or green pepper, seeded and chopped
One medium onion
3-4 tablespoons red wine or sherry vinegar
1-2 cloves garlic
1 ½ cups ice water

For garnish:
¼ cup each finely chopped tomato, onion and pepper

For croutons:
1 ½ cups crusty bread in ½ inch dice, crusts removed if you prefer
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil

Place all ingredients except garnish and croutons into a blender
and blend until smooth. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled;
making it a day ahead lets flavors blend.

Place the crushed garlic and olive oil in a large sauté pan,
heating until fragrant over medium heat. Add croutons
and cook over low heat until colored and very firm.

Serve in ice cold bowls, topped with the garnish and croutons.

About the author  An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the
vice president of the New Hampshire Farmer’s Market Association (www.nhfma.
org) and helps run the Sanbornton Farmers' Market. Along with his wife, Joanne,
he grows certified organic herbs, greens and berries at Weather Hill Farm in
Sanbornton, NH.  
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