You may have noticed that I complain about the heat a lot. That’s because it is HOT here, people! It’s steam coming out of your ears hot. It’s fry an egg on the sidewalk hot. It’s the kind of hot that has Linda Ronstadt’s  Heatwave on autoplay in your brain. Even your fingernails sweat here. And, don’t even get me started on the humidity!
I love how movies, like the 1981 classic, Body Heat , portray our sweltering Florida summers as sultry, sexy and steamy affairs where everyone moves about languidly peeling off their clothes. Pulleaze! There’s nothing remotely glamorous or sexy about triple digit temperatures. If people are peeling off clothes around here, it’s most likely to jump in the pool – not into bed. And, trust me, no one looks like a young Kathleen Turner  did– except…well…maybe a young Kathleen Turner. Even she, apparently, had some frizz issues.
As uncomfortable as it is in my neck of the woods, those of us who live here have gotten used to it. If nothing else, we have industrial strength air conditioning wherever we go. This past week or so, however, has brought uncharacteristically hot weather all through the Midwest and Northeast. Friends in Michigan and Massachusetts have been reporting blistering temps climbing into the 100’s. That’s just brutal! Here I am, whining about 98 in the shade from my cool, air conditioned perch while half the country is roasting in Mother Nature’s great big, giant oven!
Speaking of ovens, mine hasn’t been getting a whole lot of action lately. It’s just too damn hot. However, we still have to eat. So, I focus on making things that don’t require me to slave over a hot stove, like salads, chilled soups and of course, reservations.
When we do “eat in”, one of my favorite summer dishes is a traditional gazpacho. Cool, light and refreshing, it’s like liquid salad in a bowl. And, when you have a basket full of luscious, ripe heirloom tomatoes from your garden sitting on the kitchen counter, it’s a no brainer.
The inspiration for my gazpacho  comes from the Barefoot Contessa  herself, Ina Garten. I’ve been making her basic recipe for years, and it’s a keeper. Sometimes, I’ll change up the vegetables a little or play with different add-ins, like shrimp and avocado. So far, the one I like best is this spicy version using Bloody Mary mix in place of some of the tomato juice. It’s a trick I discovered as I was making a batch one day and ran out of tomato juice. I love the zippy little kick that the Bloody Mary mix adds.
This gazpacho is one of the easiest things in the world to make. All you need is a food processor, although you could get away with a very sharp knife, if you had to. Just pulse the tomatoes and vegetables into a small dice and mix them together with the rest of the ingredients. It’s a great dish to make ahead because the flavors actually intensify as the soup sits. It also makes a fun addition to a buffet or cocktail party served as shooters in cute little martini glasses like these. Your guests can just slurp them down as they mingle!
And, did you know that eating spicy foods can actually help keep you cool? It’s true. Spicy foods make you sweat, which is your body’s natural way of lowering its internal temperature. When you eat something spicy, your body temperature rises to match the temperature outside. Then, your blood circulation increases and you start sweating. As the sweat evaporates, your body cools down. Pretty “cool”, huh?
So, while the thermometer is telling us that it’s muy caliente outside, we can all still stay cool as cucumbers by sipping on some spicy Bloody Mary Gazpacho. Sounds like a plan to me!
Bloody Mary Gazpacho
inspired by Ina Garten
2 cucumbers, halved and seeded, but not peeled
1 red bell pepper, cored and seeded
1 yellow bell pepper, cored and seeded
6 large, ripe tomatoes
1 jalapeno, split in half and seeded
1 red onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 cups (20 ounces) tomato juice
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) spicy Bloody Mary mix
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Tabasco sauce to taste
Roughly chop the cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, and red onion into 1-inch cubes. Put each vegetable separately into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until it is finely chopped, but not pureed. After processing, put each of the ingredients into a large mixing bowl.
Add the garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, lime juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and Tabasco to the bowl and mix everything until well combined. Adjust seasonings, if needed. Cover and chill before serving.
The gazpacho can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. The longer it sits, the better it is.