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When it's just too darn hot to cook, a cool summer gazpacho is easy and refreshing.

I like to include cucumbers in gazpacho because they add bulk and coolness. Bell peppers also work. Roasting the peppers will add another dimension of flavor.

There are plenty of gazpacho variations. You can adjust the flavor by using different varieties of tomatoes, green or red bell peppers, and sweet onions or green onions. You can even make fruit gazpacho.

Gazpacho should have a deep red color and a fresh veggie flavor. Almost all the ingredients should be pureed, so that the precise vegetables are barely discernible. But you can leave a few chunks in the soup, or stir in extra just before serving.

In today's recipe, using stale bread that has been soaked adds body and texture.

I like gazpacho with a spicy kick. You can use chopped jalapeno peppers, or just add several drops of your favorite hot red pepper sauce.

Gazpacho is good for you. Tomatoes and red bell peppers are good sources of lycopene, a phytochemical that acts as an antioxidant; studies have shown that it protects against some diseases. Both are also good sources of vitamin C.

When choosing the tomato juice or vegetable juice for this recipe, choose one that's low in sodium. You can season with additional salt to taste. The addition of sugar helps bring out the flavor of the tomatoes.

Gazpacho is best served chilled as a main dish with crusty bread or as an appetizer or starter. You can serve it in decorative cups or bowls, small glasses or even shot glasses. Plan on making it several hours before you serve it or the night before so the flavors can meld. It will keep for two days in the refrigerator.

>Crab and Chili Pepper Gazpacho

1 thick, stale piece of sourdough bread

6 large ripe tomatoes, cored, halved and seeded

1 medium sweet onion, peeled, cut in wedges

4 cloves garlic, peeled

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, coarsely chopped

1 medium bell pepper (yellow, red or green), seeded, coarsely chopped

2 medium jalapeno chili peppers, seeded and cut up

2 cups favorite vegetable juice (regular, hot or spicy), preferably low-sodium

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon sugar or more as needed

Salt and black pepper to taste

2 cans (6 ounces each) canned lump crabmeat, drained, flaked, with cartilage removed

Chopped fresh chives for garnish

Soak the bread slice in water for several minutes and squeeze out excess liquid.

Place tomatoes and bread in food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to large serving bowl. Place onion, garlic, cucumber, bell pepper and chili peppers in food processor. Cover; pulse with on/off turns until chopped to desired consistency.

Add processed vegetables, vegetable juice, lemon juice, olive oil, sugar, salt and black pepper to tomato mixture. Stir to combine. Cover and chill at least 8 hours or overnight.

Spoon gazpacho in bowls. Top with crabmeat. Sprinkle with chives.

Serves 8.

-- Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens magazine, July 2009 issue.

140 calories (26 percent from fat ), 4 grams fat (1 gram sat. fat ), 17 grams carbohydrates, 10 grams protein, 321 mg sodium, 28 mg cholesterol, 3 grams fiber.