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It's Hollywood gazpacho, baby!

September 11, 2011 | 12:53 pm

For the Hollywood farmers market's annual Tomato Festival on Sunday, I did a cooking demonstration with my good buddy and KCRW radio goddess Evan Kleiman. The idea was tomato recipes that were so simple they didn't really need recipes. Evan did a really great quick pan sauce (hints: use lots of olive oil and grate the garlic rather than slice it). I did gazpacho. Both dishes seemed to go over pretty well -- especially in the case of little Cecelia Plum and the gazpacho. But despite my assurances that this was so simple that explicit measurements weren't needed, some folks wanted that little bit of extra security. So here after the jump is my favorite gazpacho recipe, or at least the basis for it (I make it a little different each time). It comes from Spanish cooking writer Janet Mendel. And while I'm at it, here's a list of 30 tomato dishes so quick and easy that they can be described, rather than quantified.

-- Russ Parsons

Photo: Russ Parsons / Los Angeles Times

Today's Gazpacho (Gazpacho Hoy)

Active Work Time: 20 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 1/2 hours, plus 1 hour chilling

4 ounces (about 4 slices) stale bread, crusts removed

2 cloves garlic

2 pounds tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped

1 (2-inch-square) piece green bell pepper, optional

1 (2-inch) chunk peeled cucumber, optional

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons salt

1/3 cup olive oil, preferably extra-virgin

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 1/2 cups water

1/3 cup chopped green bell pepper, for optional garnish

1/3 cup chopped white onion, for optional garnish

1/3 cup peeled, chopped cucumber, for optional garnish

1/2 cup croutons or diced bread, toasted crisp, for optional garnish

Break the bread into big chunks and soak it in water to cover until it is softened, about 15 minutes. Squeeze out the excess water and place the bread in a blender or food processor with the garlic. Blend until the bread and garlic are smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary.

Add the tomatoes (it may be necessary to process the tomatoes in 2 batches) and the pieces of pepper and cucumber, if using, and puree. Add the cumin and salt. With the blender on, add the olive oil in a slow stream. As the oil is incorporated, the gazpacho will turn from tomato-juice red to a paler, orange color. Blend in the vinegar and enough water to make the desired thickness.

Place the gazpacho into a tureen, bowl or pitcher and chill until serving time.

Place each of the garnishes -- chopped peppers, onion, cucumber and croutons -- in small bowls or on a relish dish and pass them when the gazpacho is served. This gazpacho also can be served, thinned with additional water, in tall glasses for sipping, without the garnishes.

4 to 6 servings. Each of 6 servings: 191 calories; 915 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 13 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 17 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 2.25 grams fiber.