First was the yellow and green squash; then the green and purple green beans (purple green beans turn...green...when cooked); cremini mushrooms; red onions; a fennel bulb; red bell pepper; poblano pepper; asparagus spears; grape tomatoes.
Wow: grape tomatoes are magical on the grill: they wilt and soften, and their flavor concentrates stunningly, like something between a sun-dried tomato and fresh ripe one. It was all I could do to stop myself from eating the whole batch like candy. I think April has this problem with grape tomatoes from time to time....
A note about the poblano peppers: I used a technique of blackening them on the grill, putting then in a paper bag to steam, then peeling the waxy skin off and removing the crown and seeds inside (see the picture for an example of a blackened pepper ready to be peeled). What you are left with is a lovely, soft roasted dark-green pepper with mild heat and great smoky flavor, but no bitter skin. You can do this over the flame on your stove too, but the grill made super-quick work of it. Grind up one of these into your next fresh salsa--it's your new secret salsa weapon.
Now on to the soup:
To me, standard gazpacho is wonderful, featuring all the flavors of vegetables fresh from the garden. But I was dreaming of a deeply red, smoky, slightly sweet tomato-based gazpacho with assertively developed flavors from the grill--flavors that would remain prominent even in a soup served cold.
The grill flavor was done: I would use all those vegetables I'd just roasted last night. I didn't just want those rich, concentrated grilled vegetable bits to float listlessly in canned tomato juice. But I did want the bright acidity of tomato juice--and not, as per my usual gazpacho base--V8, which includes vegetal flavors I didn't envision in this recipe.
I borrowed the standard technique for making hot pureed soups, starting with 2 cups of room-temperature tomato juice in the blender. In went the smokiest--and sweetest--grilled vegetables: poblano peppers, red bell peppers, onions, fennel, and those amazing reduced grape tomatoes.
The resulting puree was a gorgeous, burnished red with tiny flecks of black from the grilled vegetables. The flavor was smoky, sweet, and rich--exactly what I wanted, but too concentrated. And it still wanted a little something more...
I took care of the concentrated flavor simply by adding two more cups of tomato juice. I decided on a tablespoon each of Worcestershire and soy sauce. The soy added complex salt, and together with the Worcestershire, provided a hit of umami that really brought out the depth of the smoke flavors. I had my base soup!
All that remained was the addition of the veggies that would provide something to chew on. I added diced yellow and green grilled squash, diced grilled fennel, and a fresh cucumber for a bright hit of green among all the burnished dark flavors. I just love sweet corn, so I tossed in a cup of frozen grilled corn from Trader Joe's, adding crunchy sweet nuggets and a bit of carbohydrate that, if you wanted fewer calories, you could leave out without sacrificing much flavor. Perfection!
And at just 100 calories a cup, I could afford to eat the whole 7-cup batch if I wanted too and still have more than half my day's calories left! (But I think I'll savor this masterpiece in smaller more frequent servings!)