Spanish cooks who endured hot Mediterranean summers combined bread, vinegar, oil and garlic to create a refreshing dish to help cool off.

The cold soup that resulted - gazpacho - is notable for its piquant flavor, hearty texture and easy preparation. Centuries later it is still a summertime staple.

In addition to being refreshing and filling, chilled gazpacho requires no cooking. A blender is the only equipment needed to whip up a batch.

Plus, because gazpacho takes time to get properly cold (and the garlic and other flavors need time to meld and amplify), making it in the cool of the evening to serve the next day is ideal.

From a nutritional perspective, gazpacho highlights the concept of synergy - the combined health benefits of its ingredients are greater than those provided by any one individual part.

The tomatoes, for example, are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that is absorbed more readily in the presence of fat, which is provided by the olive oil.

In addition, research suggests that consuming an assortment of antioxidants in combination may enhance their benefits. In gazpacho, besides the lycopene, vitamin C and other antioxidants in the tomatoes, you also get a hearty dose of disease-fighting phytochemicals from the bell pepper, garlic and onions.

This Spicy Gazpacho has a new twist, which I credit to a recent visit with some English friends. When they called the summer weather "bloody awful," I was inspired to add horseradish, giving this version the zesty kick of a bloody Mary.

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Spicy Gazpacho

Yield: Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients

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  • 2 lbs. ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced, with their juice
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1 slice stale white bread, crust removed*
  • 1/2 cup reduced sodium tomato juice
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 4 tsp. white horseradish
  • 2 tsp. white distilled vinegar
  • 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup finely diced peeled cucumber
  • 1/4 cup finely diced green bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
  • 4 Tbsp. whole-wheat croutons

Directions

  1. In blender, whirl tomatoes and garlic to a coarse puree. Tear bread into 1 inch pieces and add to tomatoes. Add tomato juice, tomato paste, horseradish, vinegar, oil, and cayenne pepper. Whirl until soup is a finely pulpy puree. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer soup to a container, cover, and chill 3-4 hours to overnight. It will keep up to two days.
  2. Divide chilled soup among four soup bowls. To each bowl, add 1 tablespoon diced cucumber, pepper and onion. Top with 1 tablespoon croutons and serve immediately.

    *If bread is not stale, set it on rack in a 225 degree oven until dry and hard, about 20 minutes.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
120 calories
3.5 g total fat
0 g saturated fat
18 g carbohydrate
4 g protein
4 g dietary fiber
250 mg sodium