In the movie about my life, scenes from last weekend would be one of those montages of dueling extremes, bouncing back and forth between action and inaction, carefree laughs and near tears, basically fun, and well, misery. It would begin with a scene of me dropping D at the airport, him lugging his bags onto an airplane. It would then follow that plane as it climbed into the air and then slowly pan over to the sun- an intense and menacing looking sun at high noon.
Fade in to Oliver and I stuck inside the apartment for most of the weekend, tight shots of our sweat-speckled brows, desperately fanning ourselves. From a birds-eye view we look like insignificant little bugs under the microscope of our oversized windows. A time lapse would show us at the start of the day cowering in one corner as light pours in through the slats of tightly drawn blinds. As the day draws on, we keep two steps ahead of the sun’s rays, making our way to the other end of the room, hoping for any sort of cool draft from fans or air vents fifteen feet above. Efforts to distract myself from the sweaty mess I was becoming proved unsuccessful and to add insult to injury there was a steady stream of dispatches of cooler air and west coast friends coming thru my phone.
For while nearly the entire country suffered under varying degrees of a blistering heat wave, D’s good fortune had him whisked away to a corner of California where moderate temperatures ruled. Just like in the movies, everyone was slightly aglow, a gentle breeze giving everyone a fresh and lightly wind-blown look. D was working nights, leaving him free to catch up with friends in the afternoon. His weekend montage is a lovely collection of breezy images of palm trees, smiling attractive people, convertibles and beaches, bikinis, skate parks and pizza parlors.
On Day 2 my weakness at entertaining Oliver was becoming problematic. By noon we had colored, played dinosaurs, watched a movie, and had a dance party, and we still had 9 hours to go until we could even think about bedtime. It was just too hot to leave the apartment, too hot to think, too hot to move. But the heat didn’t seem to wear on the boy the way it was draining my energy; what did wear on him was my apathy. After running circles around me until we both felt a little queasy, he had had enough. Saturday afternoon descended into a fairly predictable cycle of meltdowns, distractions, and appeasements, a pattern that left me feeling a wee bit fragile to say the least.
Of course we’re playing up the tensions for dramatic effect, but the point of miserable heat is no exaggeration; we were hot, and we were bothered. It’s a convenient and tidy little narrative, cut and dry except that in the face of all the miserable wallowing I did this past weekend, I somehow managed to make a magical gazpacho that had a wonderful silky and refreshing texture, imbued with other worldly properties that allowed me forget all the weekend’s discomforts, if only for a few moments.
What makes this gazpacho so wonderful? Well, to be honest, its as simple as a silly amount of olive oil and peak season produce. I imagine some eyes bugging when they see the recipe calls for an entire cup of olive oil. It is a lot, but it also yields a lot of soup, so spread over many servings, its much less indulgent than it appears. (Also, the original recipe called for TWO whole cups, so you should really think about all the oil you’re saving!) You start by blending olive oil, red wine vinegar and garlic until its emulsified. Then you add some peaches, veggies and herbs and it comes together in a silky vinaigrette that brings to life everything that’s great about summer produce. It’s sweet, juicy and tangy, and it makes the tomatoes go pop. The cucumber relish gives it a satisfying crunch while the silkiness of the puree makes the coolness stick all the way down your gullet.
So after each confrontation, once Oliver found his happy place, I found myself running to the fridge to fix a small bowl of gazpacho to restore my own sense of inner calm. Can food really do that? Even if it was fleeting, each cool, refreshing bite brought me one step closer to peace with the heat. I’d sit on the floor, next to a dozen plastic dinosaurs, intent on savoring every bite. It was just like one of those Diet Coke commercials. I know, this behavior screams of unhealthy stress eating. On that point I’m guilty as charged, but I got through the weekend.
And then came Monday morning. D returned, starting the week off with a red eye flight, and magically the heat acquiesced. Ten degrees cooler, things seemed a bit more right around here. I could walk for my morning coffee, visit the water park with oliver, and I didn’t have to dodge anymore questions from O about when his dad would be done working. The next scene in our movie would be standard fourth of july fare, with burgers and cocktails and driving past fireworks at sunset with a tuckered out little guy asleep in the backseat.
Goodness knows I’m not trying to relive triple digit temperatures anytime soon, (as if I have any say in the matter). And though I’m sure they aren’t far on the horizon, I am grateful to have found this recipe so early in the summer season; it just might be my best weapon against the heat-induced delirium of a southern summer. That and a trip to a much cooler place, but on that point, for the time being, this girl’s just California dreaming.
Olive Oil Gazpacho
Loosely adapted from Bi-Rite Eat Good Food
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 3 large garlic cloves
- 8 large basil leaves
- 6 large sprigs of parsley
- 1 cucumber cut into chunks
- 1/2 red onion cut into chunks
- 2 peaches
- 1/2 tbsp salt
- 3-4 roma tomatoes, quartered
- 6-8 heirloom tomatoes, quartered
- 2 cucumbers
- 2 peaches
- 1 red onion
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (more to taste)
In a blender or a or food processor mix olive oil, vinegar and garlic cloves until emulsified. Add basil, parsley, cucumber, onion, peaches and blend until smooth. Add salt and give it a good mix.
If your using a blender or a full sized processor you could probably just add your tomatoes, blend til smooth and be done with it. If your kitchen set up is anything like mine, and your dealing with a mini food processor, meant for pestos, pour the vinaigrette into a bowl. Working in batches, puree a quarter of the tomatoes, once smooth, add 1/3 cup of vinaigrette, (you can eyeball this), working through your bounty of tomatoes.
Put gazpacho in a big bowl and chill for at least an hour. The flavors meld during this time, and in fact seem to get better the longer it rests, so you’ll wait to season to your taste just before serving.
To make the relish, chop cucumber, peach and onion into roughly the same sized pieces. Combine with chopped basil.
To serve laddle gazpacho into bowls. Top with a generous 1/4 cup of relish. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of pepper.