Maybe it’s because I grew up in Nebraska, where, while they might not be able to lay claim to its origin, red beer is king. You know, tomato juice or V-8 (or, in the case of my brother, Clamato) mixed with lager beer. Red beer. Go Big Red. Cornhuskers. As my granddaughter Mylee would say, “Got it?”
Anyway, I love tomato juice. And V-8. And I might like Clamato if I ever tried it. However, not being a beer drinker, I can’t say I like red beer. But I like tomato juice with most everything else. Put a spicy Bloody Mary into my hands, and I’m very happy. I don’t even need all the fancy accoutrements, like okra or bacon or dilly beans. Just tomato juice and vodka jazzed up with hot sauce and spices. Yum. A great excuse for alcohol at 8 o’clock in the morning.
I was thinking about tomato juice the other day as I prepared a batch of gazpacho. Gazpacho, as you might know, is a tomato-based vegetable soup served icy cold in the summer when vegetables are at their freshest. An alcohol-free bloody mary in a bowl. Since I have been trying to cut back on carbs, I have been looking for sandwich-free meals for lunch. I thought about gazpacho, especially now that vegetables are plentiful at the market.
I started looking for a good recipe, and then realized a written recipe is probably unnecessary. Use what’s in your refrigerator and pantry. But I will share my mother’s recipe nonetheless, and then tell you how I modified it.
But first I must tell you a couple of things. The first thing is that I fully admit that I had never heard of gazpacho prior to living in Leadville, when my mother inserted it into her soup repertoire. I loved it from the first bite. That’s surprising, because the second thing I’ll tell you is that I heartily dislike cold soup of almost any kind. And I’m a big fan of soup in general. But don’t give me cold borscht or vichyssoise. Cold melon or strawberry soup? No thanks, though I love both melons and strawberries.
I’m pretty sure gazpacho was new to my mom too. I think she got the recipe from a friend. The recipe card is handwritten, and I don’t recognize the handwriting.
4 c. diced tomatoes
¾ c. chopped green peppers
1-1/2 c. chopped onions
1 garlic clove, minced
2 c. beef bouillon
½ c. lemon juice
¼ c. olive oil
½ c. diced cucumber
1 T paprika
Salt and pepper to taste.
Combine all ingredients except cucumber. Let stand at room temperature for one hour, stirring frequently. Chill. Add cucumber just before serving.
Nana’s Notes: Here’s what I did, using things from my pantry and my refrigerator. I chopped up a cucumber, a jalapeno, two cloves of garlic, a half of a red onion, and a couple of stalks of celery. I would have included a green pepper if I’d had one. I put half of each of the chopped vegetables in the blender with 3 small cans of tomato juice that I had on hand, a tablespoon or so of sugar, a half cup of olive oil, and about a cup of beef broth. I blended it, but didn’t totally pulverize it. I then put that in a bowl, added a tablespoon of sugar and the remaining chopped vegetables. I added a can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes in lieu of a fresh tomato since they aren’t yet in season. I happened to have a half of a container of pico de gallo, so I thought, “why not?” and added that as well. I chilled the whole bowl for several hours and enjoyed a delicious, nutritious, and low carb lunch (several, actually).