By Jan Roberts-Dominguez

For The Bulletin

While poking around New York City’s Museum of Natural History one summer, my husband and I realized lunchtime was upon us, and we were mighty hungry. From our third-floor location, we were directed one floor up to the Cafe on 4. Any sort of nibble would have hit the spot, but no compromises needed to be considered since the menu — like so many other Manhattan offerings — was unique and above average. Even the soup of the day seemed promising: gazpacho. Gazpacho!

Confident of her fare, the little eatery’s sole waitress offered a taste of the soup before we committed. Oh my, it was wonderful, so two grown-up servings followed. From the zesty melange of summer tomatoes, peppers, onions, cucumbers and celery, to the creamy dollop of creme fraiche on top and hand-fried tortilla chips on the side, our quick little stop in an out-of-the-way corner of this mighty museum proved to be a memorable experience.

My own version of this hot-weather soup is similar. It’s zesty, loaded with fresh and flavorful summer produce, and best of all, can be made up to 24 hours ahead. Because it’s chilled, and because it’s so user-friendly in terms of calories, it has remained my tried-and-true supper opener throughout the summer.

I’ve also made it at other times of the year, but the flavor can’t compare to those batches made from tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers that have journeyed no farther than the distance between my garden (or farmers market) and kitchen.

Of course, the whole concept of chilled soups has been around a long time, and by now you’ve probably got a few favorites that you trot out this time of year. Most of the good ones rely on local vegetables and fruits. They can be smooth and creamy or thick and robust. And, like the ones I’m sharing, they all come with the unspoken encouragement of free-wheeling, as based on your own inclinations.

— Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, cookbook author and artist. Contact: .