It’s here: Memorial Day weekend, the official beginning of summer. Of course, in Vancouver/Portland it may be a struggle for the temperature to get to 70, so it’s not exactly bikini and short shorts weather.

But that doesn’t stop us romantics. A long weekend is a long weekend—right? Even if we spend it in the same jeans and turtlenecks we’ve been wearing for months to kick off the summer season. Get that grill fired up! Cook whatever you and your partner like—steak, chicken, veggie burgers, hot dogs. Add a Northwest microbrew, a salad and…

I can hear you now. Wait, where’s the romance in THAT? Two things—first, you and your mate will be doing it together. Making a meal with someone you love can be very romantic. You’re caring for each other. Feeding each other. Accidently bumping hips in the kitchen. Over the grill. (Fire warning again—don’t want to have the heat actually burn up you or your meal.)

And then there’s the first course, which I hadn’t gotten to—gazpacho. The color of passion, made with love apples (see Tuesday’s blog) and seasoned with just a little heat, it’s an easy and romantic dish to make.

There are lots of recipes for gazpacho. Some are, IMO, outright weird—white gazpacho? Really? Isn’t the point of the dish to use tomatoes? I’ll stick to the traditional, thank you very much.

 An Irish/Scottish/English/German Cook’s Take on Gazpacho

 3 ripe tomatoes to make 3 cups of chopped. (My father, who grew up on a farm told me to smell most fruits to see if they’re ripe. And tomatoes are a fruit. They smell, well, tomato-ey when they’re ripe.)

1 cup of a mixture of chopped onion, a peeled and seeded cucumber, celery, seeded green pepper, whatever you prefer.

½ seeded and chopped jalapeno pepper

1 small clove of garlic, minced

splash of red wine vinegar

2 splashes of good olive oil

cilantro or parsley if desired

Place tomatoes in a blender or food processor and pulse until they are slightly blended but do not yet resemble V8. Add all other ingredients and pulse a few times. The veggies should remain slightly chunky. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

If the gazpacho is too thick, add a bit of tomato juice or water to get it to the consistency you like. But it shouldn’t be too thin.

Place in glass bowl and refrigerate for an hour or overnight for flavors to blend. Or you can serve it right away. It’s not a fussy dish.

Before serving, taste again for salt and pepper and the degree of heat you like. Add Tabasco if it’s not hot enough. Then garnish with avocado, crab, or croutons, a dollop of pesto or minced chives, if you like, and serve. This will make enough for 4.

And while you settle in for a long almost-summer’s weekend, don’t forget to take a moment to remember and honor the sacrifices some have made for the rest of us at home. Which makes this weekend important, no matter what the weather turns out to be.

What are you up to?

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