Growing up, there was an "old couple" who lived near my family. Looking back, they couldn't have been much older than what my parents are now, but at that time, they seemed ancient! I was 8-years-old when their only child passed away from multiple-sclerosis. My parents explained to me that, "The old people down the street are very sad and they may like to see your smiling face. Stop by and say hello on your way home from school." And so I did.
"Mr. Irish" was a short, stocky Irish-man who always had a joke up his sleeve. And his wife, a refined, elegant lady with silky red hair, was an expert baker. To an 8-year-old, jokes and cookies - what's not to like?! So from 2nd through 8th grade, I would go visit almost every day after school. Mr. Irish would always have a new joke or story ready and Mrs. Irish would have some cookies and hot chocolate with big, colored marshmallows waiting for me.
The Irish's became like a third set of grand-parents, for lack of a better term. They didn't have much of an extended family and after their daughter's passing, we became their family. They attended every graduation, school play, piano recital, Christmas, birthday... The stories I could tell you about them would have you laughing with tears running down your face: Like the time when Mr. Irish's car stalled at a red light. He tried starting it over and over again, but it was dead. The guy behind him was laying on the horn, so Mr. Irish took the keys out of the ignition, walked over to the man and said, "Here are the keys to my car. You try to start it and I'll honk your horn for you." I'm telling you, this guy was a riot!
The other night I was thinking about the first time my family was invited to dinner at the Irish's home. I was still 8 and I had never eaten gazpacho, at least not that I can recall. I loved it! So much so, that like Oliver Twist, I asked for seconds. My mom gave me a gentle shake of the head to indicate it wasn't polite to ask for seconds if it hadn't been offered, but I insisted, "It's good! I'd really like some more, please." Despite my mom's best efforts, I was a still kid who wanted more gazpacho!
I wish I had Mrs. Irish's gazpacho recipe. I don't know if it's just my memory that made her gazpacho so incredible or if it really was that good. I made gazpacho last night and think it's a decent replica of the original, at least as I remember it.
Gazpacho is perfect for a hot, summer night!! I like mine a little chunky, but not so chunky that it's no longer a soup. While many recipes call for a red bell pepper, I prefer the color a green pepper adds. Be sure to reserve some of the diced vegetables for garnish.
Gazpacho Soup Recipe
Yields: 8 large servings, main meal
4 large heirloom tomatoes, peeled and diced
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 ribs celery, sliced
1/2 large red onion, minced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 c red wine vinegar
1/4 c olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp hot sauce, more if desired
4 c low-sodium tomato juice
1. Place tomatoes, cucumber, green pepper and celery in a food processor. Pulse 5-10 times. Vegetables should be blended together, but still slightly chunky. NOTE: Reserve a few tablespoons of diced vegetables for garnish, if desired, before placing in the food processor.
2. Transfer vegetables to a large soup tureen or bowl. Stir in parsley through tomato juice.
3. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Soup is best when made the day before. Serve cold.