Chosen Bites: Cooling summer soups

Perfect for a light week night supper or a refreshing summer Shabbat, gazpacho makes a refreshing change.

Gazpacho 311 (photo credit: Ben Fink)
Gazpacho 311
(photo credit: Ben Fink)
All summer I wait for the start of tomato season. Ripe, juicy and in-season tomatoes taste like sunshine and summer. They are fruity and incomparably rich and refreshing. Supermarket tomatoes have no flavor and are starchy. I don't ever use them in recipes and just wait it out until the real thing comes in season. If you have never tried an in-season, fresh off the vine tomato, I insist that you find a farm stand or farmer’s market and pick some up. When you purchase fresh tomatoes, do not put them in the refrigerator. All that wonderful sugar that is a natural part of the tomato will convert to starch in the refrigerator. That is why store bought tomatoes have a grainy texture and are flavorless.
They usually travel great distances in refrigerator trucks and then are stored in the stores' coolers. Purchase fresh, off the vine tomatoes as close to the date you need them to insure the best flavor.
Gazpacho is a peasant soup that originated in the Andalusian region of Spain. The raw ingredients were pounded with a mortar and pestle and then bread, extra virgin olive oil and vinegar were added to the mixture to create a refreshing, acidic and cold soup. The addition of bread and extra virgin olive oil makes the gazpacho creamy and velvety. 
Classic gazpacho is made with bread, olive oil, vinegar, garlic and almonds. The tomato version that we know today is relatively new. Tomatoes and peppers are New World foods are were introduced to Spain and Europe after the Spanish colonization of the Americas.
I like to make different versions of gazpacho when entertaining or anytime I want a cool and elegant salad or first course. Perfect for a light week night supper or a refreshing summer Shabbat, gazpacho is a summertime treat.
Tomato Gazpacho serves 6
I wait all summer to make these gazpachos. I serve them in old china teacups or glass tumblers lined up on a tray. They are refreshing, beautiful and easy to prepare. This soup can be stored in the refrigerator, covered, up to 2 days.
4 large, plump, juicy garlic clovesKosher salt1 red bell pepper, seeded and deveined1 small English (seedless) cucumber, peeled, soft center scraped out2 to 3 pounds very ripe tomatoes, cut into chunks1 cup soft bread torn into pieces1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegarSplash of sherry (optional)1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil (use your best-tasting oil)2 cups unsalted tomato juice1 teaspoon pimenton*Freshly ground black pepper
Suggested Garnishes: herbed croutons, chopped cucumber, chopped fresh parsley, chopped hot chilies, diced roasted peppers, extra-virgin olive oil, chopped hard boiled eggs.
*Pimenton, which is Spanish smoked paprika, cannot really be compared to the paprika found in most grocery stores. It has a wonderful sweet smokiness essential to paella, chorizo, and other Spanish delicacies. It can be found online or at specialty markets.
Place the garlic and two teaspoons of salt in a mortar and pound it to a paste; or use a cutting board and the side of your knife to smash and scrape it. Transfer the garlic paste to a food processor or blender.
Add the bell pepper, cucumber, tomatoes, bread, vinegar, sherry (if using), olive oil, and tomato juice, and process until very smooth and the mixture is peach colored. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill soup, covered, until it is very cold, at least 4 hours.
To serve, ladle the gazpacho into bowls or cups and garnish it, if you like, with as many toppings as you want. Use your imagination.
Chilled cucumber watermelon mint soup
This pale pink soup is refreshing  and makes a perfect stand-in for a salad course or a delicious partner for a trio of chilled soups.
2 large cucumbers, peeled and seeded
2 cups watermelon - seedless and cut into medium cubes
1 cup honeydew melon - seeded and cut into medium cubes
2 teaspoons rose water (optional)
Zest and juice of 1 lime
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
Puree all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender until no lumps remain.
Adjust seasoning with salt or sugar depending upon the ripeness of the fruit.
Chill and serve garnished with: chopped herbs, cut up melon, diced fruit, yogurt.
Yellow tomato cazpacho
The beautiful color of this soup screams "fresh." I love the sweet flavor and low-acid yellow tomato and use them to perk up salads, sandwiches and this gazpacho. Use your best quality extra virgin olive oil for this soup.
6 servings
6 medium ripe yellow tomatoes
2 cucumbers, peeled and seeded
¼ cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
¼ cup best quality extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Garnishes: herbed croutons, chopped herbs, diced tomatoes, diced cucumbers, chopped hard boiled eggs, olive oil.
Process all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth. Chill completely and serve.
Laura Frankel is the executive chef at Spertus Kosher Catering and the author of  - Jewish Cooking for all Seasons and Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes.