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Spring Gazpacho: Not an Oxymoron

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While we patiently await a summer of fresh tomatoes, we've partnered with Muir Glen Organic to share springy recipes that use one of our favorite weeknight mainstays: canned tomatoes.

If anyone has told you that you can't make gazpacho with canned tomatoes, you've been lied to. (I, too, had been lied to!) Because more important than the state of the tomato is its quality—and in May, when the tomatoes we can find (in New York, at least) are whitish-blueish on the inside, it's canned tomatoes that make for a superior soup.

So it may not be a purist's gazpacho, but crazier things have happened. See examples A and B below:

Watermelon Gazpacho with Feta and Mint

Watermelon Gazpacho with Feta and Mint by Heather Morris

Eleven Madison Park's Strawberry Gazpacho

Eleven Madison Park's Strawberry Gazpacho by Genius Recipes

Rather than a salsa-like gazpacho—where you're grasping for phantom tortilla chips—you get a soup that's creamy and present. There's no risk of blandness, of watery nothingness, of mush. (And I find that refreshing in a gazpacho, albeit an untraditional one. Plus, you get to blend—no chopping involved.)

Beyond all of those advantages, the real kicker is that canned tomatoes are in season always, which means they're available at the same time as the green group of spring vegetables.

Here, a combination of peas, leeks, and tomatoes—not possible if you did your produce shopping at most farmers markets (Californians, those in the South, you are exceptional)—makes its début.

Gazpacho with Spring Pesto
Gazpacho with Spring Pesto

It's an unusual partnership that makes more sense than you might think: Buttery-soft sautéed leeks add richness; red onion mellowed in sherry vinegar, sharpness and acidity; lemony pea "pesto" with preserved lemon, brightness and salinity; and, at the base of it all, there's a purely tomato taste that will make you even more excited for late July, when the first reds and yellows beckon at the market.

But by then, you'll be missing the peas, and wishing you could add them to your fresh tomato gazpacho (and at that point, I say, use frozen peas).

Gazpacho with Spring Pesto

Gazpacho with Spring Pesto

Sarah Jampel Sarah Jampel
Makes 4 small-ish portion (3 more generous ones)

For the soup:

  • 1 leek, white and light green parts only (save those green fibrous parts for stock!)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1 tablespoon sherry or red wine vinegar
  • pinches sugar
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup (heaping) cubed sourdough bread (from about 3 slices)
  • One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with basil

For the spring pea pesto (makes extra—halve if you don't want leftovers!):

  • 1 cup peas, thawed if frozen, blanched if fresh
  • Generous handful fresh basil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon chopped preserved lemon
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt, to taste
Go to Recipe

You've got a can of tomatoes: What's the first thing you make with it? Tell us in the comments below.

Muir Glen Organic's got variety going for it: Their flavorful, organic canned tomatoes come in almost any form you'd need, from crushed or diced to fire-roasted and dotted with basil. See all their products here.

Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Vegetable, Pesto, Spring, Vegetarian, Vegan