Nothing celebrates summer like a bowl of chilled gazpacho prepared when tomatoes are at their peak. Only the most flavorful garden specimens will do.

SERVES 6 AS A FIRST COURSE

5 medium tomatoes, cored

2 medium cucumbers

1 small onion, diced

1 large green bell pepper, cored and cut into Вј-inch dice

2 cloves garlic, minced

в…“ cup red wine vinegar

в…“ cup olive oil

ВЅ cup Vegetable Stock, tomato juice, or water

A few dashes Tabasco

Salt to taste

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Croutons (see Note)

  1. Roughly chop all of the tomatoes. Peel both cucumbers and cut in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds with a teaspoon and discard them. Roughly chop 3 of the cucumber halves and add to the tomatoes along with the diced onion. In batches pure this mixture in a blender or food processor until almost smooth but not liquefied. Pour into a large serving bowl.
  2. By hand finely dice the remaining cucumber half and add to the soup. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the croutons and stir to blend. Chill at least 2 hours before serving. Taste to adjust seasoning. Serve well chilled, garnished with the croutons, in individual soup bowls.

NOTE: To make croutons remove the crusts from a few slices of bread. Lightly toast them in a toaster. Rub both sides with a garlic half (you will probably need a couple of them). Then, using a pastry brush, brush both sides lightly with olive oil. Cut the bread into ВЅ-inch cubes and lay them on a cookie sheet. Dry them out until they are crisp in a 350В°F oven that has just been turned off. Toss occasionally. They will get harder as they come to room temperature.