Home on the Range

Soup with adult edge

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Tomato is a childhood soup. Perfectly smooth, gently warmed, it spreads across the shallow soup plate, a placid orange lake dotted with oyster-cracker buoys. Poured from the thermos or served alongside grilled-cheese triangles, cream of tomato sees the child through school day, sick day or Saturday.

Gazpacho might be tomato soup, but its outlook is thoroughly adult. Gazpacho is cold. It's raw. It's chunky. Nothing school day, sick day or slow day about it.

Once a mash of stale bread, raw garlic and olive oil, gazpacho comes from Andalusia by way of the Arab table. Presumably Hercules himself gulped gazpacho before dispatching lion, hydra and bronze-beaked bird.

These days the soup often comes studded with cilantro, avocado and other knowing sorts. It brings to mind the swank patio party. Maxi dress. And bad behavior.

It might even show up spiked with vodka or — in that Almodovar movie — sleeping pills. When hometown Kevin Klein and worldly Sissy Spacek hook up in "Violets Are Blue," they first slurp soup. Gazpacho.

It's summer. Go ahead and swirl a batch. You probably won't end up under the pier, drugging the cops or slaying a lion. But it's a seductively sly soup, so you never know.

Roasted gazpacho

Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Chill: 1 hour
Serves: 6 – 8

2 ½ pounds (about 4 pint containers) small tomatoes, such as cherry or grape
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 scallions, coarsely chopped
1 red pepper, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons snipped cilantro
Croutinis (recipe follows)

Tumble tomatoes onto a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Slide into a 400-degree oven and roast until tomatoes are soft and splotched black here and there, about 15 minutes. Cool.

Scrape tomatoes and juices into the blender. Add garlic, scallions, red pepper, oil, vinegar, sugar, paprika and ground red pepper. Swirl smooth.

Press through a medium-mesh sieve into a bowl. Work a rubber spatula against the sieve to press all the liquid through. Discard seeds and such.

Season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill, about 1 hour.

Serve: Pour into small bowls or cups. Garnish with cilantro and croutinis (which, if hot, offer a nice contrast). Enjoy.

Inspired by a recipe from my friend Jennifer, who got it from her friend Jill, who got it from "Tomatoes" by Manisha Gambhir Harkins (Ryland Peters & Small, 2003).

Croutinis Trim crusts from 4 slices of white sandwich bread. Cut bread into small croutons. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 clove garlic, smashed, a pinch of salt and the bread cubes. Crisp, stirring, until golden all over, about 2 minutes. Discard garlic. Scoop out croutons with a slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels.

Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at leahreskin@aol.com.
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