Gazpacho, summer cooking without the stove, has many variations. This one is a combination of tomatoes and watermelon (Sharon Salyer / The Herald)

Gazpacho, summer cooking without the stove, has many variations. This one is a combination of tomatoes and watermelon (Sharon Salyer / The Herald)

When the weather outside is hot, keep it simple with gazpacho

The variation of the definitive chilled soup blends two summer staples: tomatoes and watermelon.

There are hundreds of recipes for gazpacho. An internet search finds well-known culinary names adding their twists to this popular summertime soup.

They include Ina Garten, aka the Barefoot Contessa, and former New York Times food writer Mark Bittman, the Cliff Notes of cooking, who finds ways of making many recipes simple and quick.

So when ripe, plump heirloom tomatoes turned up in the local farmers market stalls over the weekend, I knew it was time to give one of the recipes a try.

Actually, it was a bit of two-weekend tryout. In 2014, Bittman published an even dozen gazpacho recipes, including ingredients as varied as kale, avocado, green grapes and tomatillos.

Last week I tried his tomato and strawberry gazpacho, one of the recipes in that collection, and liked it a lot. Bittman suggests adding a slice or two of bread to some of these recipes to give them a little more substance.

Tomatoes are one of the main ingredients for many, but not all, types of gazpacho soup. (Sharon Salyer /The Herald)

Tomatoes are one of the main ingredients for many, but not all, types of gazpacho soup. (Sharon Salyer /The Herald)

With watermelons also coming into their prime, I decided to try a gazpacho with that red, ripe fruit in it, this one provided by Martha Rose Shulman of the New York Times.

Actually, it was an adaptation of a recipe she saw in “The New Spanish Table” by Anya von Bremzen. Even Shulman admits she was a bit skeptical at first, but gave it a try.

It is made without some of the typical gazpacho add-ins, such as garlic, onions, cucumber, basil, Italian parsley and balsamic or other types of vinegar.

Its list of ingredients is short — just six items: tomatoes, watermelon, lemon juice, olive oil, celery and salt ‘n’ pepper.

The key thing with any gazpacho is to give it time to chill — overnight if possible — and then adjust various flavorings as you see fit.

A gazpacho with watermelon gives the chilled soup a clean, crisp taste. (Sharon Salyer / The Herald)

A gazpacho with watermelon gives the chilled soup a clean, crisp taste. (Sharon Salyer / The Herald)

Without the bread that Bittman recommends in his gazpacho, this is a very light soup, which I think makes it perfect for those days when you come home to a hot house and you feel like a little something, but not a lotta something, to eat.

I like the crisp, clean taste provided by the watermelon. The celery adds a pleasant bit of sodium to the recipe. Shulman says to be sure and experiment with added salt and lemon juice to bring out the soup’s true taste. She suggests either celery sticks or slim celery matchsticks as a side or garnish. It can always be paired with a nice slice of bread dipped in olive oil, and maybe even your favorite cheese.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with the amount of lemon juice you add, even after it’s chilled. (Sharon Salyer / The Herald)

Don’t be afraid to experiment with the amount of lemon juice you add, even after it’s chilled. (Sharon Salyer / The Herald)

There are, of course, additional items you could add. One person posted that she had added red onion. I was very tempted to do so, but as my custom with any first-time recipe, I decided to follow the directions precisely and try different additions the next time.

So give one of these recipes a try, which provide a way to make something homemade without spending hours in the kitchen. It’s summer — keep it simple!

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.

Celery adds a simple accent in both the blended soup and as a garnish. (Sharon Salyer / The Herald)

Celery adds a simple accent in both the blended soup and as a garnish. (Sharon Salyer / The Herald)

Watermelon gazpacho

4 cups cubed seedless watermelon, about 1¼ pounds

1 pound ripe tomatoes, quartered or cut into sixths

2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, to taste

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Generous ½ cup chopped celery (2 ounces)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Thin celery slices or sticks for garnish

Working in batches, puree all of the ingredients except the garnish in a blender for 2 minutes or longer until frothy and smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings, making sure you have used enough salt and lemon juice for a vivid flavor.

Transfer to a bowl, and chill for several hours. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve, garnishing each bowl with thinly sliced celery or, if serving in glasses, with a thin lengthwise slice of celery stick.

Yield: 4 to 6 regular servings or 8 to 12 aperitifs.

— Recipe by Martha Rose Shulman, as published in the New York Times.

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