On my first day of work as a line cook I was paired with the lead cook on a station prepping cold appetizers and salads. Wet behind the ears, and fresh out of culinary school, I was practically shaking in my kitchen clogs with fear of how I would get through the frantic pace of dinner service. “Hope you have your running shoes on,” the lead cook had yelled at me from the cooler. Clearly, I had not impressed him with the long work I made of slowly and awkwardly peeling a pile of carrots in almost an hour.
Years later when my life as a restaurant cook ended, I thought daily sprints through the kitchen were a thing of the past. Little did I know that it also fits the job description when you become a parent of small children. If home cooking is a priority for you, then somehow you have to fit it into the small window when your kids aren’t demanding all of your attention.
Parents of young children know that you get to a point where you no longer need an alarm clock to get up in the morning. My two- year-old son’s internal clock goes off every morning around 6:45, and now with his baby brother down the hall, our day starts even earlier. Babies and toddlers are notorious for having no patience when it comes to having their needs met, so when they are up the day starts off running and doesn’t slow down until somewhere around 7:30 in the evening.
At that point, dinner is often an after thought. Convenience and speed are imperative, but a recipe still must provide sustenance in the form of nutrition and energy if we are to get through the next day. It doesn’t get much easier than whizzing up a batch of gazpacho in the blender for dinner. In mid-August, with juicy tomatoes at their ripest, and beautiful zucchini and peppers in abundance, you would be hard pressed to find a soup more satisfying and refreshing during these dog days of summer. I prefer an Andalusian variety that keeps the traditional ingredients in balance and adds little else except for olive oil, vinegar and a bit of crusty bread for heft. Served ice cold, and preferably with an equally chilled Chardonnay, this soup takes the edge off a long summer day every time.
6 large ripe tomatoes, cored and quartered
2 large seedless cucumbers, peeled
1 clove of garlic, peeled
2 red bell peppers, seeded and quartered
1/2 sweet onion (such as Vidalia) peeled and halved
1/2 C stale bread cubes
1/2 C excellent quality extra virgin olive oil
1/4 C red wine or sherry vinegar (I use a little of each)
salt and pepper to taste
Method: Toss all of the ingredients together and allow the mixture to marinate in the fridge for at least an hour. Blend the mix in batches and add small amounts of cold water if the soup becomes too thick. Serve each bowl with an extra drizzle of olive oil, and if you have extra time, small diced cucumbers and peppers for extra crunch. Slivers of basil, croutons or crumbled feta also work well as garnishes for this.