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Most Americans tend to think of soup only as something hot that warms you in the winter.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines soup as "a liquid food prepared from meat, fish or vegetable stock combined with various other ingredients and often containing solid pieces." Nowhere in the definition is the temperature of the above liquid stated.

The heat of summer calls for a different approach to eating.

Other countries don't share our prejudice.

The Danes have cold buttermilk soups, and the Russians beat the heat with chilled borscht. Perhaps the most famous cold soup to have crossed the Atlantic to the Americas is gazpacho from Spain.

Salad as a soup: There are as many gazpacho recipes as there are cooks in Spain, but basically the ingredients are the summer vegetables abundant in the market. It is essentially salad in a bowl minus the lettuce. The base of the soup is tomatoes, so it is important to use local tomatoes fresh from the farmers market or your garden.

Many recipes advise tossing the tomatoes along with the other ingredients into a blender and then straining the soup. I find it easier to peel and seed the tomatoes beforehand and skip the straining. Just drop them in boiling water for about 30 seconds and the peel will come off easily. I also peel and seed the cucumber as I find the seeds lend a bitter taste.

The sherry vinegar and dry sherry lend an authentic Spanish touch to the gazpacho. If you don't have them in your pantry, you can substitute a good red wine vinegar and use cooking sherry.

In Spain, gazpacho is served in small glasses and drunk rather than eaten with a spoon. I prefer mine served in a bowl with homemade croutons as a garnish. It is a bit more filling and gives a "bite" to the soup.

To make the croutons, use whatever stale bread you have on hand and cut it into 1/2-inch cubes. Place the cubes in a baking dish and toss with a little olive oil, dried herbs, garlic powder and salt. Put them in a 350 degree oven and bake for about 10 minutes or until crispy. They will keep in the refrigerator for weeks.

To make the gazpacho, assemble the following ingredients:

Gazpacho

2 pounds tomatoes, peeled and seeded

1 cucumber, peeled and seeded

1 small bell pepper or 1/2 large one, seeds and ribs removed

1 clove garlic

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons dry sherry

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt to taste

Croutons for garnish

Place all of the above ingredients except the croutons into a blender and blend until smooth. Chill for about 30 minutes and serve topped with the croutons.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section.

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