Strawberry Gazpacho

The other day I made, and tasted, my first ever traditional gazpacho (which is just a cold, Italian tomato soup) and I disliked it so much, I decided not only to keep it far from my Blog, but I also vowed to never make one ever again! But then I came across a strawberry Gazpacho from five&spice that looked and sounded SO divine (her descriptions and pictures were amazing), that I was inspired to give gazpacho another chance, and i’m so glad I did!! It was far from traditional, which is probably why I liked it so much. Sometimes you just come across those dishes that make you question ‘how in the world do people come up with recipes like this?’ And this was one of them. It was just so sweet and flavorful and cleverly balanced! I wasn’t sure if this dish should have been served as an appetizer or entree, (or dessert!) But I decided to serve mine with some rosemary and olive oil bread that I warmed in the oven, and it ended up being such a perfect meal for a warm spring evening–that I know I will make it again (and again, and again!) So here is the amazing recipe:

Ingredients:

1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, kept whole, but peeled and crushed
1 1/2 cups whole grain/french bread, cubed
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
6 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered
2 cups English cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 1/4 cups red bell pepper, diced
3/4 cup yellow bell pepper, diced
2 Tbs. tomato paste mixed into 4 Tbs. water
3 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
basil leaves, freshly ground black pepper, and olive oil, for servingDirections:

Heat 1 Tbs. olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat, add 1 clove of garlic and when it starts to sizzle add the bread cubes and thyme. Cook, stirring until the bread is golden brown, adding more olive oil if necessary to prevent it from sticking and burning.  Discard the thyme sprigs, and place the bread cubes in a bowl with the remaining garlic, strawberries, cucumbers, peppers, 1/2 cup olive oil, tomato-paste, water, vinegar, and salt. Stir to combine, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and leave to marinate at room temperature for 3-6 hours. 
In 2-3 batches, puree the mixture together in a blender until smooth (strain if desired). Then refrigerate until fully chilled. Before serving, taste and adjust the salt and vinegar if desired.  Serve sprinkled with basil leaves, black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil on each bowl.
This would make such an elegant first course at a dinner party too! It looks so gourmet, and complicated, and as if a lot of time and effort went into making it, when really it was so simple and easy to make! (Those are my favorite kind of recipes!) So genius! My faith has been restored in gazpacho!
I hope you all love this recipe as much as I do!
<3 Sarah