Gazpacho, and everybody’s favorite croutons

IMG_1915My father, who was my source for homegrown tomatoes for many years, has been dead for four years now.  If I believed in Heaven, I’d definitely think he was up there planting and harvesting the best tomatoes the celestial kingdom has ever seen, because growing tomatoes was his little Heaven on Earth.  But now, if I want homegrown tomatoes, I have to do it myself.

This year I purchased one (1) tomato plant that has absolutely inundated me with fruit.  I don’t think they taste as good as my father’s tomatoes–either because of the variety, or because I had to grow them myself.  But this plant just keeps on producing.  I’ve given some away to neighbors, but I still have a bunch.

Happily, yesterday I thought about gazpacho.  The weather was miserably hot, and cold soup sounded perfect, and it is a good, healthy way to use up tomatoes.IMG_1913

There are lots of different variations on gazpacho, but I like mine 1. smooth, and 2. spicy.  So that’s how I make it, and that’s the way I’ve written it down here.  If you’re dieting, it is filling, full of fiber, healthy, and though I’ve never counted, I suspect the calorie count is way down in the eat-a-bunch range.

IMG_1909Spicy Gazpacho
2 medium to large tomatoes
1/2 cucumber, peeled
1 bell pepper, seeded
a small amount of onion–this varies according to how strong the onion is, but since it’s raw you will definitely want to go easy on it.  I use about 1/4 cup, chopped
1 Tablespoon olive oil
juice of 1 lime
3 cups spicy (or regular) V-8
a handful of parsley
salt and pepper to taste —for the pepper, I use this very spicy and delicious Thai bird pepper that my friend Jude gave me, but if you are not lucky enough to have a friend who brings you awesome food gifts from her travels, you can use black pepper instead)

Throw everything into the blender and blend until it’s the consistency you like it.  Sometimes, I hold back a few of the vegetables and chop them coarsely by hand, and add them to the pureed soup.

If you like, and I almost always do, you can use croutons to make the crunch.  These croutons make pretty much every soup better, and they are super-easy to make.

For the croutons, cheap, white sandwich bread is the way to go.  Really.  Save the artisan bread for something else, because sometimes cheaper is better.  Take as many slices as will fit on your cookie sheet–I got about 14 on mine.  Cut off the crusts, and cut the slices in halves or quarters.  Assemble them back on the cookie sheet, putting them as close together as possible.  IMG_1899Melt a stick of butter (or even margarine) and slather it on the bread using a pastry brush.  I’d like to take a time out here to spotlight my pastry brush, because I love it–it’s silicone and heatproof, and you can pour the melted butter right into the handle, and squeeze and brush it on the bread.  It’s also handy for spreading egg wash on homemade bread.  Isn’t it cute?IMG_1903After you have used up the entire stick of butter, sprinkle heavily with Lawry’s Lemon Pepper Seasoning.  There is really no substitute–I’ve tried other brands and was left bitterly disappointed.IMG_1904Then, bake them at 350 for about 20-30 minutes, until they are brown and crispy.  These are great on soup, but they also work well as a base for spreads, and Larry and I have both been known to just eat them straight off the cookie sheets.  Yum.
IMG_1910

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