Gazpacho on a stick

Sometimes the simplest ideas can result in the most amazing of things. That's the case with these gazpacho frozen pops, in which gazpacho, the tomato, bread and vegetable soup from Spain, is frozen into individual appetizer servings on a stick. The soup recipe is a flavorful version, good but nothing surprising. The genius comes in straining it until smooth, then turning it into an unexpected savory frozen treat.

And that genius comes from Rita Gutekanst, chef and co-owner of Limelight Catering, based in Lincoln Park. Limelight served the savory frozen treats at last year's Green City Market barbecue fundraiser. Among the 100 or so bites from chefs across Chicago, it was my favorite by far. Gutekanst, who appeared at the Tribune's annual Printers Row Lit Fest this year to talk about the launch of "The Green City Market Cookbook" — Gutekanst is a member of the market board — agreed to share the recipe.

And I'm so glad she did. When we tried these in the Tribune test kitchen, they were a hit (and I kept sneaking down for another one or two each day until the batch was gone). And during a cookout at home this past weekend, they were a hit again. So get your frozen pop molds out (or Dixie cups or ice cube trays) and make a big batch. You'll be glad there are extras.

Joe Gray, Tribune Newspapers

Gazpacho frozen pops

Prep: 20 minutes

Freeze: 4 hours to overnight

Makes: 6 cups or about sixteen 3-ounce frozen pops

Recipe adapted from Rita Gutekanst, co-owner of Limelight Catering. We have cut her original recipe amounts in half; the recipe is easily scaled up or down. The gazpacho base should be well-seasoned before freezing, as serving foods cold or frozen tends to dampen the flavors. For the molds, we used a silicon ice cube tray with 3-ounce chambers. Paper Dixie cups, the choice of many a parent when making homemade frozen pops, also hold about 3 ounces.

1 cup cubed white bread

1 1/2 cups tomato juice

4 cups seeded chopped tomato, about 3 3/4 pounds

2 cups seeded, peeled, chopped cucumber, about 2 medium

3/4 cup chopped red onion

1 cup chopped red bell pepper, about 1 medium

3 ounces extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 ounces sherry wine vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

Cayenne pepper, to taste

1/2 lemon, juiced

Pesto, for serving, optional

1. Soak bread in tomato sauce until soft. Blend all of the ingredients, except pesto, well in a blender. Strain through a strainer (not a chinois); the mixture should be smooth but not too fine. Taste and adjust vinegar, salt, cayenne and lemon juice.

2. Pour into ice cube trays or molds; set in freezer. After 30-60 minutes, insert sticks into center of each ice cube or mold. Freeze until solid, 4 hours or overnight.

3. When ready to serve, unmold pops; stand each in a puddle of pesto on a small plate. That will keep them from sliding and will add a hint of flavor.

Nutrition information per serving: 49 calories, 4 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 3 g carbohydrates, 1 g protein, 157 mg sodium, 1 g fiber

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