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Entertaining

Gazpacho is just perfect for simple beach-house fare

Beach Eats

May 23, 2004|By Elinor Klivans | Elinor Klivans,Special to the Sun

Beach-house weekends call for no-cook meals that let you wind down after a long, hard day of sun and sand. Icy-cold gazpacho, thick with just-picked summer vegetables and "beefed" up with fresh crab meat, is a perfect choice. It is salad and seafood in one dish.

Friends dropping in? Just double or even triple this expandable recipe. No food processor or blender? All you need is a knife to chop the vegetables and a big bowl to hold the soup. Need something do-ahead? Make the soup anytime during the day and add the crab meat when serving it.

A lightly stocked pantry is the norm for any beach house, so it is a good idea to make a list of what you will need to bring along and what to forage along the way. From home, take a quart of tomato juice or V8 (that quantity will give you enough to add to the soup pot if your crowd grows), tuck in a bottle of hot sauce, a couple of lemons or limes, a bottle of olive oil and several cloves of garlic.

If you like, include a container of sour cream and a bag of ready-made croutons for soup toppings. Stop at a farm stand along the way to pick up vegetables for the gazpacho and berries for dessert. Using the ingredient list as a guideline, choose the vegetables that look best and add more of any varieties that you prefer. Tomatoes, onions and some kind of sweet pepper are basic, but zucchini, summer squash, leftover corn kernels or yellow tomatoes could be included.

Either buy the crab meat or gather the crabs yourself, then have everyone join in to make quick work of picking the meat.

Serving the gazpacho is as casual as putting out bowls or mugs and letting everyone fill their own. To round out the menu, put out several kinds of crusty breads, cold beer (summer wheat is my favorite) or sparkling water, and berries with vanilla ice cream or cream for dessert. Some big oatmeal or chocolate-chip cookies from the bakery would be nice.

This dining is help-yourself, take as much as you want, sit where you find a place and have a cool time.

Crab Gazpacho

Serves 6

1 clove garlic, halved

8 medium tomatoes, chopped

3 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

2 sweet red peppers, chopped

1 large sweet onion, chopped

4 green onions (green tops included), chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice

1/2 teaspoon (or to taste) hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, optional

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 cups tomato or V8 juice

1 pound (about 3 cups) fresh crab meat

2 cups croutons, optional

1 cup sour cream, optional

Rub the inside of a large serving bowl with the cut side of the garlic halves. Put the tomatoes, cucumbers, green and red peppers, onion and green onions in the bowl and stir them together. Stir in the olive oil, lemon juice, hot pepper sauce, fresh parsley (if desired), salt and pepper. Stir in the tomato juice. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.

When ready to serve, carefully drop spoonfuls of crab meat on top of the soup. The crab meat will sit on top of the thick soup. Serve with croutons and sour cream, if desired.

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