I think I did it. I think I finally, FINALLY, conquered soups once and for all.
I’ve discussed in length my love-hate relationship with soup, most of which centers around textural issues. Am I eating a drink or drinking a food? Why are there…chunks...in it? Also, I was watching an episode of Chopped the other day where one of the contestants made a soup/sauce (where do we draw the line? it’s a slippery, soupy slope) with an entire lobster. The whole thing! Just right in the blender! FACE AND SHELL AND ALL. We can’t just be throwing crustaceans into things all willy-nilly like that, people. Have some decency. I’ve since developed an irrational fear that any food might just be a shellfish smoothie. I’ve had to cut frozen margaritas out of my diet, it’s terrible.
Anyways, through rigorous self-inflicted aversion therapy, my soup game got considerably stronger this winter, so much so that I listed my immersion blender as one of the “six things I can’t live without” on OkCupid*. DC has officially turned into a swamp for the summer, though, and I’m fairly certain there’s a city ordinance banning hot, cozy winter comfort foods May through August. Some may call it a Nanny State, but shouldn’t our government’s first priority be to ensure the health and safety of its citizens? The summer soup ban might even be in the ACA, who even knows. I stopped paying attention once I found out I got zero co-pay birth control. Non-sarcastic thanks, Obama!
Also, because DC isn’t enough of an inferno already, my office has been 95º for about a month, so put anything much warmer than an ice cube near your face region and you might as well have just bit into pizza before letting the cheese cool, could you just let it cool for a second or a minute or two, hold your horses, be patient! Please raise your hand if you have ever felt personally victimized by too-hot pizza cheese:
Finding myself in a serious soup dry spell and lacking inspiration for this week’s Lunch Bunch, it dawned on me: duh, cold soup! Gazpacho!
Before we delve into the absolute magic that is gazpacho (gazpacho!), let’s talk about Lunch Bunch for a second. I’ve made some pretty rad gal pals at work (hereby referred to as “mittens,” our friendship pet name for one another), and back in March, we found ourselves falling into a bit of a lunch rut. Carefully planned meals gave way to either:
- Sad desk lunches of a handful of cashews, a Blow-Pop, three cups of Yogi Detox tea, and a half a tomato; or
- The same combination of barley-black-beans-half-an-avocado-cottage-cheese-and-sriracha every single day every single week until you retire for the rest of your life UNTIL YOU DIE. RIP Shaack / 1990-2990 / Died the way she lived: attempting professionalism
I tried to be really vigilant about packing healthy, vibrant, delicious lunches every day for work, but turns out that is a feat easier said than done, and planning, not to mention actually cooking, a new recipe every day for lunch and dinner is logistically unsound at best.
“Leaning in” and “having it all” (social life, money, or Gwyneth Paltrow’s meal plan: you can only pick two) in terms of work lunches didn’t quite pan out (glass Pinterest ceiling), but the mittens and I figured that while maybe we couldn’t pull ourselves together enough for daily lunches, we could definitely commit to making lunch once a week. And thus, out of an avoidance of adulthood and mundane quotidian responsibilities, Lunch Bunch was born!
The rules of Lunch Bunch are simple: every week, we each pick a day to bring enough lunch for the three of us. Accounting for leftovers, we have three-to-four different, delicious, and nutritious home-cooked meals a week, with minimal effort. Honestly, I think we all thought this was going to last for about two weeks, but it’s been about three months now, and we’re still going strong. We’ve barely even had repeat lunches! I know, I’m impressed with us too. We’ve also had to be creative, since our combined dietary restrictions and preferences include no meat, no dairy, no eggs, no peanut butter, no non-whole wheat, and no cilantro. JAYSUS, we’re a picky bunch.
Gazpacho (gazpacho! it’s just so fun to say) clears all of those dietary hurdles, and I figured that if these smitten kitten mittens could eschew cheese for me for the month, I could confront the final soup frontier. One tiny spoonful for Shaack, one giant leap for mitten-kind.
Turns out, gazpacho (gazpacho!) is easy breezy (beautiful, COVER GIRL) to make. There are only two bowls involved in the whole process, and while you’ll need the stove for blanching the tomatoes, you won’t have to turn your apartment into a sweat lodge with the oven. I went with Alton Brown’s recipe, because he has yet to steer me wrong, and I was not disappointed. There were serious concerns re: where gazpacho (gazpacho!) would end and salsa would begin, but the cucumber kept it from veering into condiment territory. I used crackers for some much-needed crunch, but also because the mittens have been complaining that my meals lack “protein” and “carbs” and “calories” and are “mostly air but air for rabbits,” so I’ve been trying to accidentally starve them less. My bad, ladies!
Gazpacho (Gazpacho!) (based on Alton Brown’s recipe)
1 1/2 pounds tomatoes (see below for prep)
Tomato juice (I used low-sodium + extra spicy for a kick in the mouth but not in the arteries)
1 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 small jalapeño, seeded and minced
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lime, juiced
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar (I used red wine vinegar since it was all I had on hand)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (I subbed in soy sauce for a vegetarian version)
1/2 teaspoon toasted, ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Blanching tomatoes: Pare a small X into the bottom of each tomato. Bring water to a boil, and drop tomatoes in boiling water for about 15-20 seconds. Remove from boiling water and place in ice bath for a minute or so, and set aside to cool.
Prepping tomatoes: From the X you pared earlier, peel and discard the tomato skin. Remove seeds and cores, finely chopping the tomato and placing in a large bowl. Place the seeds and cores into a colander or metal sieve over a smaller bowl, and press until you’ve squeezed out as much tomato juice as possible. Add enough tomato juice to the bowl to reach 1 cup (mine required about 1/2 cup of juice)
Prepping gazpacho (gazpacho!): In the large bowl with the tomatoes in it, combine tomato + juice mixture, cucumber, bell pepper, onion, jalapeño, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, Worstherciererererere sauce, cumin, salt, and pepper. Set aside about a cup of the mixture, and with an immersion blender, or in an actual blender (weird), blend until you’ve reached desired texture. Add in remaining non-blended mixture, and determine your comfort level with the texture, blending accordingly.
Best served with a crisp white wine and a mild sunburn (summer summer summer summer) if eating at a non-work time in a non-work environment. Best served with crackers and a mild computer-induced headache if eating at work. This soup is non-sad desk lunch compliant and is intended to be enjoyed over a long lunch break with mittens, although you are allowed to take the box of Triscuits back to your desk with you. What’s that Bible verse about not being able to judge others unless you’re completely without fault? Judge not he who casts the first stone who is without the other cheek sin? Crushed it, totally nailed it.
haha idk im so bad at making these profiles lol