Contributor Katie Cizewski - Meatless Monday, Strawberry Gazpacho

Strawberry Gazpacho Our contributor Katie Cizewski - Meatless Monday, Strawberry gazpacho

Happy Labor Day everyone! The summer may be wrapping up but it seems like the heat is just setting in to New York. Are you having friends over to celebrate the holiday? Gather around the table to eat but don't bother with the stove or the grill this time. You can make a delicious and impressive raw meal with the fruits of the summer - literally. Strawberry gazpacho is one of those dishes that is surprising at first but then once you start eating it you wonder why it isn't a classic summer staple. The sweetness of the strawberries is the perfect match for the bite of the peppers and if you like a little heat then add some Tabasco, this cold soup recipe calls for it.

The history of gazpacho is a long one but it seems to have begun in the south of Spain, along the Mediterranean. Tomato was not originally a part of the recipe for this cold soup and though it may be the ingredient that made gazpacho so popular, it is the ingredient that is now being pushed back out to make way for modern variations, such as this strawberry gazpacho. The first wave of gazpacho, before the tomato hit the European continent, was a cold soup made of stale bread, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and salt. Once the tomato was introduced other summer vegetables soon followed and the recipe took on many variations. More recently, fruits such as watermelon, grapes, and strawberries have been added to the mix and now gazpacho can be sweet, savory, spicy, refreshing, or all of the above - this strawberry gazpacho is. Here's the recipe...

2 pounds of strawberries, chopped 1/2 cup chopped onion 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper 1 cucumber, chopped 1/2 clove garlic, crushed 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil salt and Tabasco to taste 1/2 cup finely chopped strawberries dressed in extra virgin olive oil (garnish)

Chop, crush, and mix all the ingredients together by hand and then refrigerate. Once chilled, throw the mixture in the food processor and blend until smooth. Divide into six bowls and top with the strawberry garnish and eat! Your guests will love this unique summer dish and they won't even notice that it's vegan and raw.

Contributor Katie Cizewski - Meatless Monday

Our first contributor is Katie Cizewski. She'll be posting every Monday as our Meatless Monday contributor. Katie is a freelance food, travel, and fashion writer with a diverse background. She is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute's pastry program and of Columbia University's engineering school. In addition to Chef Marcus Samuelsson's blog, she is a regular contributor for citybuzz, a restaurant and travel blog, and for a fashion blog hosted by YMI Jeans. Katie is also writing a novel partly based on her own experiences with food.I have a vivid childhood memory of climbing out of the pool on a hot August day and running across the cement to my mom holding a towel and a plate of lunch. She wrapped the towel around me and handed me the plate. It was full of sliced summertime tomatoes. I looked at the plate curiously as I sat down on the edge of the lounge chair. I could still taste the chlorine from the pool on my lips. I temporarily set aside my childish discrimination against vegetables (yes, a tomato is a fruit but try telling a kid that) and decided to go for it. I picked up a chunk of tomato, took a tepid bite and - delicious! It was so fresh and bright I think I could taste the sunshine that had been shining down on that tomato's vine all summer long. The sliced tomatoes were gone within seconds.  Can you remember the first time you ate a really good tomato?

Summertime comes every year and with it come the juicy summertime tomatoes. The tomato plant originated in South and Central America and is believed to have been spread first to Europe by Columbus. Today, tomato plants grow around the world but thrive where there is a lot of sun. The top five tomato producing countries are China, the United States, Turkey, India, and Italy. Tomatoes are such a basic food but their flavor can be so versatile and - as I found out that hot August day - wholly satisfying. There are endless varieties of ways that you can eat a tomato and how one might be served to you depends a lot on where you are in the world. A favorite tomato dish of mine is Tomato Basil Capellini. It's just about as easy to make as it sounds. The only ingredients not listed in the name are fresh garlic cloves, salt, and extra virgin olive oil. The dish always turns out good, but if you want it to turn out great just make sure to use a high quality extra virgin olive oil and ripe, local tomatoes, as they are the star of the plate.

As an added bonus, this time of the year brings a wide variety of heirloom tomatoes to the markets and roadside vegetable stands. Heirloom tomatoes are the varieties of tomatoes that have bred true for forty years or more. In other words, they are not hybrids and neither were their ancestors. Some of the more beautiful varieties of heirloom tomatoes out there right now include the Green Zebra, Black Krim, and Brandywine tomatoes. Pick up an assortment, wash them, slice them, salt and pepper them, and eat! Colorful heirloom tomatoes will satisfy the hungry diner in more ways than one - because after all, you eat with your eyes first.