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Originally published Saturday, August 25, 2012 at 6:30 AM

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A tomato soup for chillin'

City Kitchen: Vine-ripened tomatoes are perfect for a chilled tomato soup, which can only be described as a no-cook summer delight. Recipe: Cold Tomato Soup

The New York Times

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Isn't it lucky that just when it's too hot to cook on the East Coast, tomatoes are at their sweetest, ripest and juiciest? Or at least it feels that way, like a serendipitous reward for suffering through a heat wave.

Before moving to New York, I never quite understood the reality of relentlessly humid summer heat. I had certainly spent time in hot climates, but my reference for a good number of years had been the chilly San Francisco summers no one believes exist until they visit. When the cold fog settles in there, you have to bundle up to grill outdoors.

Here, I've adapted to a different agenda. Get to the market early, before the lettuce is wilted. Stick to the shady side of the street, and avoid the subway if possible (it's usually hot). Cook in the morning, if at all. Go into siesta mode. Develop a strategy to get through outdoor errands (even the dog doesn't want to go outside). Dine late, like the Spanish. Take a steamy stroll at midnight.

But back to tomatoes. That's the saving grace: Vine-ripened tomatoes are finally here. Year-round hot house tomatoes don't begin to compare.

The best tomatoes may not be the prettiest. Often, it's the gnarly, misshapen, split-topped tomatoes that have the sweetest flavor. Or seek out the extremely ripe, must-sell-today tomatoes that some farmers discount.

They are perfect for this kind of chilled tomato soup, which can only be described as a no-cook summer delight. Chopped tomatoes are seasoned with olive oil, garlic, salt and sherry vinegar; crushed; then pushed through a food mill or sieve to extract the all red nectar.

The soup can stay in the fridge all day to be sipped at leisure. For a more substantial sit-down version, I add avocado toasts and a bright sweet pepper relish. As for the rest of the meal, still no cooking required. Cheese, olives, some good sliced ham. Peaches for dessert. Because who wants to heat up the place?

COLD TOMATO SOUP

Time: About 1 Hour

Yield: 6 servings

For the chilled soup:

3 pounds ripe red tomatoes, cored and diced

4 large garlic cloves, sliced

1 tablespoon kosher salt, more if necessary

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

Black pepper, to taste

Generous pinch cayenne

For the garnish:

1 cup finely diced bell peppers, preferably a mixture of colors

½ cup finely diced sweet onion, such as Vidalia

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

6 slices freshly toasted French bread or ciabatta

1 garlic clove

1 firm ripe avocado

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

2 tablespoons chopped chives

1. Put tomatoes and garlic in a non-reactive bowl and sprinkle with salt. Add 4 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons vinegar, the black pepper and cayenne. Mix well and leave to macerate for at least 15 minutes, or up to an hour.

2. Pulse tomatoes in a food processor or blender until just crushed. Transfer to a strainer or food mill to remove skins and seeds, pressing well to obtain all the juices. You should have about 5 cups. Add enough ice water to yield 6 cups. Stir well, taste and adjust seasoning. Chill on a bowl of ice for 15 minutes or refrigerate for up to several hours.

3. Make the pepper relish about 30 minutes before serving: Put diced bell peppers and onions in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar, mix well and set aside.

4. To serve, rub each toast lightly with garlic. Top toasts with thick slices of avocado and season with salt and pepper. Place an avocado toast in each bowl and ladle in about 1 cup of chilled soup per serving. Garnish with a generous spoonful of pepper relish and a sprinkling of parsley and chives.

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