When I was younger, living under the same roof as my mother, and thus benefiting greatly from her arsenal of cooking skills, I could always look forward to a big, seemingly bottomless pot of hearty vegetable soup in the winter. In the summer, it would be a big, refrigerated tub of fresh gazpacho, or as Mom called it, “gazplatcho” (the woman could fill a dictionary with made up words). Regardless of the season, Mama always made enough soup to feed us for a week. Yeah, I know, that’s a lotta soup, but it was always so delicious we never got sick of it.

Now that summer appears to have officially struck Los Angeles, I’m thinking it might be time to make my own vat of gazpacho. It makes for a great summer lunch, and is best served with crusty bread for dipping.

Mama’s Gazplatcho

(makes about 6 servings)

2 large tomatoes, or about 1 pound

1 large cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise and seeded

3 cups tomato juice

1 medium red onion

1 large roasted red pepper (roast a fresh one yourself, or buy jarred)

half a cup fresh chopped cilantro

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1/8 teaspoon Tabasco (Mama’s favorite hot sauce; others will work)

salt and fresh ground pepper

Chop tomatoes, cucumber, and half the onion into coarse pieces and place in blender or food processor along with roasted pepper. Pulse to desired consistency (some people like it more pureed, but Mama made it chunky). Transfer to bowl. Add tomato juice, cilantro, vinegar, oil, and hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper, then refrigerate. Serve well chilled with crusty bread.