What am I doing giving you a cold soup recipe in cold weather? Simply because you don’t have to prepare it cold. It is just as delicious when you omit the ricotta and add 2 cups light or heavy cream and gently warm it over low heat, topped with a few flavored croutons.
Gazpacho is traditionally made never touching heat. A variety of vegetables are chopped then processed in a blender until fairly smooth and then served with stale bread. Although I find this satisfactory, it’s not the texture I admire completely. I find that cooking a portion of the ingredients makes for a smoother and more flavored meal, if you can call it that. A great lunch though. I live this soup with a hot, grilled vegetable sandwich. Although neither contains meat, it truly is satisfying.
Sweet Pepper Gazpacho
3 red bell peppers
1/2 red onion, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon chili pepper
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, optional
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons real maple syrup
1 cup Ricotta cheese
Preheat broiler and set broiler pan 3 inches from heat source. Half and seed bell peppers. Line peppers skin side up a baking sheet. Place under broiler until black and blistered, about 4-5 minutes. Carefully remove peppers and place in a large resealable bag, sealing. Set in refrigerator for 15 minutes or so until cooled. Remove and under cold running water, rub the blackened skin off. It should come off readily. If not, don’t worry about any remnants of blackened skin left, it only adds to the flavor.
Chop the peppers roughly when cooled; set aside. Meanwhile halve the tomatoes and scoop out seeds. Roughly chop and place in a large skillet with chopped onions, olive oil, bell peppers and vinegar. Cook over medium heat until onions are soft, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat, carefully pour into a large bowl and let cool completely, uncovered, about an hour in refrigerator.
Put this in a blender or food processor, in batches if necessary, and process until smooth. Remove to bowl, add chili pepper and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and let set until serving time in the refrigerator. Place ricotta cheese in a bowl and either with a stand mixer or hand-held, beat the cheese until creamy; set aside.
Right before serving, add the maple syrup to gazpacho; mix well. Divide the gazpacho among plates or bowls, garnish with dollop of whipped ricotta cheese, sprinkle with parsley and serve.