Grilled and Chilled Vegetable Soup

2 plum tomatoes
1 small red onion, peeled and halved
1 medium green or red bell pepper
1 medium zucchini cut widthwise into 1/2-inch ovals
1 small eggplant cut widthwise into 1/2-inch ovals
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups canned tomato juice

This smoky, chunky cold soup captures the outdoorsy and adventurous spirit of summer and brings a taste of the grill to the soup bowl. You can grill the vegetables a day ahead and refrigerate for later use. This soup is also a good way to use up leftover grilled veggies.

Preheat the grill until the coals are gray to white. When the fire is ready, place the vegetables on the lightly oiled grill. Cook the vegetables for 5 to 7 minutes on each side, until they become tender and develop grill marks. Using tongs or a spatula, remove the vegetables to a large mixing bowl as they become done.

After the vegetables have cooled slightly, remove any charred spots and discard. Peel (or rub) off the skin of the bell pepper; discard the core and seeds. Chop all of the vegetables and place in a medium mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and blend thoroughly. Refrigerate the gazpacho for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

Serve in chilled bowls and garnish with sprigs of herbs.

Yield: 6 servings

Soup Tips: To punch up the flavors a bit, add 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, basil, or mint. If poblano or New Mexico chiles are available, grill along with the vegetables. (Peel the skin and remove the seeds before adding to the gazpacho.)

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