It is a sacred holiday to Italians, one that has pagan origins and later was all about the religious aspects of the Virgin Mary being assumed into heaven, but then fell out of favor with the Vatican and has come to be the secular holiday of the summer.
According to Wikipedia... "Before the Roman Catholic Church came into existence, however, this holiday was celebrated in the Roman Empire to honor the gods—in particular Diana—and the cycle of fertility and ripening. In fact, the present Italian name of the holiday derives from its original Latin name, Feriae Augusti ("Festivals [Holidays] of the Emperor Augustus") . Almost the entire month of August was taken as a holiday and leisure time in Italy in honor of this feast day."
Most Italians go out of their way to go somewhere for the day for a big restaurant meal in the mountains, the seaside, a bar-b-que with friends or a picnic out in the country somewhere. Here we had grid lock going up to our Fortezza di Fenestrelle this year to climb the almost 4,ooo covered stairs and walk across to the meadow in the Orsiera Rocciavre' park, where there was a free open air classical concert in what was a glorious summer day. We had guests that were clever enough to get up early and make the climb in the cool of the morning and before the roads became a parking lot. A fitting celebration to summer.
I try to keep to the Italian theme here, but I don't think Gazpacho is too much of a stretch from our friends over in Spain, as I find it on the menu here now and then. It is a perfect summer treat that highlights the intense flavor juicy, luscious tomatoes. This dish just isn't the same any other time of the year. It has all the elements that are so beloved in Italian cooking, tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs, red onions, and peppers if you like, all of which are in their zenith of abundance and flavor at the moment here in northern Italy.
I find that I tend to make it a little different every time depending on what is on hand and what suits me at the moment. I based this recipe on a few I found on line, but Elise's of Simply Recipes version I found the most helpful for me. You'll find a wealth of recipes there if you haven't found her site before.
6 ripe tomatoes, peeled and large chopped a mixture of cherry tomatoes and heirlooms are a nice combination about 700 g or 1 1/2 lb of tomatoes
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, large chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 sweet red bell pepper (or green) seeded and chopped, (optional)
1-2 T chopped fresh parsley
2 T chopped fresh chives
2 T any combination of your favorite herbs I like to use basil or mint
1 clove garlic, minced, optional
2 T raspberry or white wine vinegar or lemon or lime juice
2 T olive oil
1/2 tsp red pepper or to taste
1 c tomato juice, I actually used water as I didn’t have any and it was still incredibly flavorful due to the tomatoes being so wonderful
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Drop your tomatoes into a boiling pot of water for about 1-2 minutes.
Remove with a slotted spoon and run under cold water to make them cool enough to handle. Peel.
Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor.
Pulse and blend slightly, to desired consistency.
Chill for maybe an hour and serve with garlicky oily croutons or crumbled grissini on top. Drizzle a small amount of extra virgin olive oil on top.
You can refrigerate over night in a non-metal storage container. I find that the flavor changes completely, so keep that in mind.
And Buon Appetito!