Salads and cold soups offer a delicious eco-friendly and healthy alternative to meat. Here’s my favorite recipe for gazpacho, a refreshing tomato-based soup made from ingredients you can easily find locally grown at the farmer’s market or your grocery store. Serve cold or at room temperature with a simple salad of mixed greens and a sprinkling of grated carrots, plus a crunchy crusty bread to sop up the soup when you get to the bottom of the bowl. For a little protein on the side, hard boil some eggs or grill several slices of marinated tofu. Another option? Drizzle olive oil on a mound of fresh goat cheese, dust with freshly cracked salt and pepper, and spread on the bread. Good for “meatless Monday” or any day of the week.
Gazpacho (serves 8 people as an appetizer or 6 for a meal) …
SECRET TO SUCCESS: The key to this soup is to dice all of the ingredients separately so their flavors remain distinct. Taste as you’re seasoning, and add more of what you like and less or none of what you don’t as you go along. This is one of those recipes you can play around with without worrying too much that you’ll ruin it! Make sure you let it sit for at least a couple of hours in the refrigerator, but preferably overnight. This is a great dish to make ahead or to take to a buffet or potluck.
Scallions: Two-three scallions, including about three inches of the green stems (I find white or yellow onions too strong, but you might prefer them if you like a strong onion flavor in your soup.).
Tomatoes: 2 cups freshly-diced tomatoes (I use the entire tomato, including the seedy, juicy pulp.)
Cucumbers: 1 large cucumber (I buy organic, so I don’t have to peel. Add more cucumbers if you want a less tomato-y soup.)
Green pepper: 1/2 – 1 cup (Green pepper has a strong flavor; add 1/2 cup first, then taste to decide if you want more.)
Parsley: 1/4 cup chopped to mix in soup, plus a little to add as a garnish
Dice the above ingredients separately; add one after the other to a glass or ceramic bowl (not plastic or metal). Stir and taste. Then add:
Tomato juice – 4 – 6 cups (6 cups makes a thinner soup, though it will thicken up in the refrigerator). (You can make your own juice by pureeing the tomatoes in a food processor, then straining out the solids. But this will take a couple of pounds of tomatoes at least, depending on their size, and add at least an hour to the prep time.)
Olive oil: 2 tablespoons (not essential; can omit for a lower-fat soup)
SECRET INGREDIENT! Red Wine Vinegar: 2-4 tablespoons (the wine vinegar adds a lot of flavor and tang; add 2 tbsps first, then more to suit your taste)
Garlic: 1 clove minced, or 1/2 – 1 tsp garlic powder
Lemon: juice from 1/2 lemon, freshly squeezed
Ground cumin: Start with 1/2 tsp; taste and add more if you like.
Tabasco sauce: Start with a dash, for just a little kick. Put the bottle on the table so people can add as much as they like to their own bowls.
Stir the liquids and diced vegetables together. Taste and adjust seasonings. Refrigrate, then taste again before serving. Put salt and pepper on the table, along with the Tabasco sauce and some lemon wedges for your diners’ pleasure.
Need ideas for more meatless meals? Check out the cookbooks we sell in our store, like Deborah Madison’s terrific Vegetarian Suppers. You’ll find lots of yummy vegan, vegetarian, and “lite” meat recipes.