If there is anything I love more than cooking, it’s not cooking. During the summer at least. It is just too hot.
When we were kids, the heat never seemed as bad. We loved the summers, and especially the beach. In June or July or sometimes both, our family would pack up the station wagon and head down to the Texas coast. Then for three or four days, the six of us would live out of our little pop-up camper (read: no A/C). Surprisingly though, I do remember it being cool in the mornings, when the ocean breeze was not yet scorched by the sun.
My brothers and I would wake up early, step out onto our little cement patio, and then climb up onto our designated picnic table. My mom would spread a red-and-white checkered table cloth over the splintered wood, placing a heavy object at each corner to keep it in place. Then Jim and I would crack open the variety-pack of “sugared cereal,” a treat that we only got to enjoy on vacation.
As we ate, my mom — with Matthew (the baby) on her hip and Chris by her side — would stock our blue Igloo cooler with Hawaiian Punch, ham sandwiches, peaches, and potato chips. Then we’d all walk down to the beach and help my dad set up the tarp (although I’m not sure anything we did was actually helpful). For the rest of the morning, we’d build sand castles, feed the gulls, search for shells, wade in the ocean, and even ride the waves if my mom was with us.
We still go to Port Aransas every summer. But instead of staying in a camper, we rent a condo, usually at the Sandcastle Resort, and revel in all the amenities that a modern hotel has to offer . . . from air conditioning and a pool, to clean towels and cable t.v., to little soaps wrapped up like Christmas presents.
Wherever you are this summer, if you need a break from the heat, you’ll love my recipe for Refreshing Summer Gazpacho, which requires no cooking whatsoever . . . just a little mixing in the food processor. If possible, use vegetables from your garden or local farmers’ market. The fresher, the better.
Refreshing Summer Gazpacho (a similar version is available in Cooking With Marie: On Any Occasion! p.80)
Serves 6 to 8
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
4 to 5 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
2 cans (11.5 ounces each) low-sodium V8 or tomato juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 jar (16 ounces) mild Sabor® refrigerated salsa
½ cup coarsely chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons sugar
Kosher salt, to taste
1 slightly firm avocado, cut into small chunks
1 lime, cut into six wedges
Place the cucumbers and bell peppers into the bowl of a food processor. Process until finely minced. Transfer mixture to a large bowl.
Place the tomatoes in the food processor. Process until fairly smooth.
Add the pureed tomatoes to the cucumber and bell pepper mixture. Add the V8 juice, red wine vinegar, Salsa, cilantro, and sugar. Stir to combine. Season with salt as needed.
Cover and chill for 1-2 hours. Serve in individual bowls, topped with avocado chunks and a wedge of lime.