Discerning Diner...with Elan Head
Can’t stand the heat? Get out the gazpacho

Three or four years ago, I interviewed a “raw foodie” not too far from our own Kyrene Corridor.

You’ve probably heard of the raw-food movement by now, but if you haven’t, it’s what the name suggests: a diet comprised entirely of uncooked food.

Yeah, that was my reaction, too (and you should have heard my husband’s). But I approached my research with an open mind, and came away with a peculiarly good recipe for avocado-banana pudding: One avocado, one banana, whirled in a food processor with lemon juice and honey to taste.

O.K., so except for some fancy-schmancy raw stuff in California, avocado-banana pudding is probably the movement’s chief contribution to the culinary record. But that doesn’t mean that the culinary record lacks raw food.

Exhibit A: Guacamole.

Exhibit B: Gazpacho.

I’ve been thinking a lot about gazpacho lately, because we’ve reached that point in the summer when patience fails—we’ve had four months of triple-digit heat, in case you haven’t noticed, and we still have another stretch to go.

Maybe the incessant drone of the air conditioner is getting on my nerves, but my lip curls up every time I look at my stove. As for the oven, well, why have yet another door that opens to a blast of hot air?

But gazpacho, ah. In ruthlessly hot August and September, this chilled Spanish vegetable soup is not only delightful to eat, it’s also relatively painless to “cook.”

Gazpacho exists in multiple guises. For example, there’s a lovely white gazpacho made from almonds, bread and garlic (traditionally garnished with peeled white grapes). There’s also gazpachuelo, a lukewarm soup with potatoes and fish.

Neither is a candidate for a raw-foods diet, a fact that bothers me not the least. Yet raw foodies and food foodies can find common ground in another type of gazpacho, also the most familiar: Gazpacho Sevillano.

Or something like that.

Fine regional distinctions blur when a foreign recipe is transported stateside.

In any event, the gazpacho we know and love is a tomato-based liquid salad, and unless it’s thickened with bread, or based on a bottled tomato juice, it’s totally, legitimately raw.

To make gazpacho at home, start with good tomatoes (try the Guadalupe Farmer’s Market at Guadalupe and Avenida del Yaqui). Use two or three large ones per four servings.

Core the tomatoes, cut them in half, then squeeze out their pulp and seeds; chop them by hand or in a food processor into 1/4-inch cubes. Remove to a large serving bowl.

Now chop a small green or red bell pepper and a small cucumber into pieces the same size as the tomatoes. Again, you can do this by hand or carefully in a food processor.

Chop a third of a small sweet onion likewise. If you can’t find a really sweet onion, use a large shallot.

Combine all vegetables with one to two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil; one to two tablespoons of sherry or white wine (or raw apple cider) vinegar; one garlic clove, pressed; generous grindings of black pepper; and a scant half-teaspoon of salt.

Now add two cups of a good bottled tomato juice, not too salty, and one cup of cold water. If you’re going raw, puree an extra tomato or two and stir it into your soup instead.

Add more salt, vinegar and/or oil to taste, then chill until the gazpacho is really cold, at least four hours. Garnish individual servings with more of the same finely chopped vegetables; if you’re of a cooking bent, you can also add slices of hard-boiled egg, or garlicky homemade croutons.

There you have it: mainstream raw and, coincidentally, perfect for the last long slog of summer.

Now, who’s up for some avocado-banana pudding?