Today’s recipe should be called “summer in a bowl.”
This right here, in all it’s colorful glory, is what summer food is to me. Fresh corn. Ripe tomatoes. Sweet shrimp. And some crispy, pan-seared cheese.
Hah, OK, so that last part isn’t exactly summery, but I’ll take cheese in any form you can give it to me and at any given moment all year long. So, let’s just go with it and let the crispy cheese be summery. Just for today.
It’s definitely a worthwhile addition to this otherwise light and healthy gazpacho. #Balance
Gazpacho, in my opinion, is one of the best parts of summer. I make it every year without fail, multiple times, and I always find myself marveling at how freaking GOOD it tastes. It always surprises me. First, cold soup doesn’t exactly sound…appetizing. Second, how in the world can veggies have so much dang flavor? Third, how can I pitch it to my husband as an actual meal (and not a “first course” – this is how he will forever feel about soups and salads counting as our main entree)?
This recipe is the answer to all those questions and concerns. It puts them all to rest.
The gazpacho itself is pretty straightforward. It is the result of many recipe attempts, and I have to say, this one is my favorite so far. Many summers have led to today’s gazpacho. And going forward, I don’t think I’m going to change a darn thing. It’s perfect. It is what I wish every other gazpacho tasted like. True story.
Just like any other recipe that uses few and only fresh ingredients, you want to make sure you’re using the best. Splurge on those organic, vine-ripened tomatoes (beefsteak and heirloom also are wonderful here). Meticulously pick out your peppers. Invest in a GOOD bottle of olive oil (yes, I’m channeling my inner Ina Garten here). It really makes all the difference in recipes like this one. The soup is raw. It’s basically a big veggie and olive oil smoothie. You can taste every single thing. So, go big or go home.
Once you’ve acquired all your perfect ingredients, you can rest easy. Because the gazpacho is SO SIMPLE to make. You need a knife, cutting board, and a blender. That’s it! Chop your veggies up a bit (no need to mince or finely dice anything!) and throw them in your blender. Blend the HECK out of it. Stream in some olive oil. Check your seasonings and refrigerate for a few hours. That’s it.
Child’s play, you guys. It’s almost too easy to share.
The gazpacho on it’s own is heavenly. It’s tangy and naturally sweet and LOADED with tomato flavor. I could eat it on it’s own with no adornments forever and ever. Dan, on the other hand, requires a little more…heft. Enter the toppings!
Sauteed shrimp, fresh summer corn, cubed cucumbers, and CRISPY CHEESE. Yup. All are optional and all are customizable. Do what works for you. This combination just so happens to be the magical answer to convincing Dan that gazpacho is, in fact, a meal.
And I never turned my nose up at any of those ingredients, either. (Well, except for the brief stint of intense shrimp aversion I experienced while pregnant.)
All the toppings can be made in the same pan, too, which means far fewer dishes than most meals require. Which makes me very happy.
I start with the cheese. Crisping it up in a little olive oil takes minutes. Wipe out the pan and add the shrimp. Once the shrimp is done, add in the corn. Toss the shrimp, corn, and cucumbers together in a bowl. Load up your bowls of gazpacho with this little salad and garnish each with a cheese crouton.
Life = made.
For the Gazpacho:
- 2 lbs ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 2 cubanelle peppers, sliced
- 1 English cucumber, sliced
- ½ of a red onion, roughly chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (or more, to taste)
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Fresh basil, for garnish
For the Topping:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 lb peeled/deveined shrimp
- 3 ears of corn, kernels removed
- ½ of an English cucumber, diced
- Drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
For the Cheese “Croutons”:
- Few teaspoons of olive oil
- Flour, for coating the cheese
- 8 oz halloumi or feta chunk cheese
For the Gazpacho:
- Add the tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, onion, and garlic to a blender (work in batches if needed). Blend until very, very smooth (see NOTE).
- Add in the vinegar, a healthy pinch each of salt and pepper, and blend again.
- With the blender running, slowly stream in the olive oil. The gazpacho should lighten in color and become slightly thicker.
- Taste and add more vinegar or salt, as needed (keep in mind that the flavors will develop over time – so resist overseasoning at this point!).
- Transfer the mixture to an airtight container and place in the fridge for at least 6-8 hours (overnight is even better).
- Before serving, check the seasonings again, and adjust as necessary.
For the Topping:
- Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and add to the hot pan. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the shrimp are cooked through and pink. Remove the shrimp from the pan, place in a medium mixing bowl, and return the pan to the heat.
- Add the corn, along with another pinch of salt and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the corn just begins to soften. Add the corn to the bowl with the shrimp.
- Once the corn and shrimp have cooled for a few minutes, stir in the chopped cucumber. Drizzle in a little extra-virgin olive oil and season, to taste, with more salt and pepper. Set aside until you are ready to serve.
For the Cheese “Croutons”:
- Wipe the skillet used for the shrimp/corn out with a paper towel. Add a drizzle of oil and place the pan over medium-high heat.
- Place a little bit of flour (I used roughly ¼ cup) on a plate.
- Slice the cheese into ½-inch thick slices and pat dry with paper towels.
- Place the cheese slices in the flour and turn to lightly coat. Shake off the extra flour.
- Add the cheese slices to the hot pan and sear, untouched, for 1 minute. A golden brown crust should form on the first side of the cheese. Gently flip over the slices and sear for another minute on the second side.
- Remove the slices from the pan and set on a plate lined with paper towels.
- Ladle the cold gazpacho into bowls and top each with a few spoonfuls of the shrimp-corn salad and 1-2 slices of the crispy cheese. Drizzle with a splash of sherry vinegar and a couple fresh basil leaves and serve immediately.
- If using a high-powered blender, you probably will not need to strain the gazpacho at all. I have a Blendtec and just blended the heck out of the soup. The consistency was perfect for me. You may choose to strain your soup after blending if it is not the texture you prefer.