Mother Nature has a sixth sense for when we're reaching our temperature breaking point. At the very same moment your hot oven becomes unwelcome, a tomato is being plucked from the vine and a cucumber is being nestled into its stall at the farm stand.

It feels rather serendipitous that the stars of the mid-summer bounty, like tomatoes, cucumbers, and bright peppers, shine when they are cold and raw. For some of us, a sliced tomato sprinkled with sea salt is the primary motivation to survive winter. And even if you aren't quite that passionate, you can surely still appreciate any recipe whose method is as easy as "Slice, sprinkle, eat."

In the U.S., our access to local hot-weather produce is limited to a short few months. But elsewhere in the world, like along the Mediterranean coastline, fresh fruits and vegetables are a year-round luxury. And while countries like Italy, France and Spain have lent us some rather advanced techniques and recipes, there is nothing more Mediterranean than a simple dish that showcases its ingredients.

This is especially evident in a recipe like Gazpacho with Sauteed Scallops. A quick scan of the ingredients reveals a simple dish, with little added to enhance the natural flavors of the summer vegetables. It is only with the most flavorful tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers that this soup can shine — just as it would on a hot day along the coast of Spain.

Gazpacho is a traditional Spanish soup, and while there are a number of variations, this one is served cold and is perfect for a hot summer dinner al fresco. Most commonly, chilled gazpacho is a blended combination of tomatoes, cucumbers, and garlic, but it's not uncommon to see peppers, onions, and even day-old bread added to the mix.

We like serving gazpacho with hot sauteed scallops for a fun temperature contrast, but you can serve yours alongside simple cold sandwiches, grilled meat or fish, or even on its own for a bite with cocktails.

Oh, and we forgot to mention the best thing about this recipe: You can make it the day ahead and then, obviously, you don't even have to reheat it. That means you can make this on Saturday in basically zero minutes, and then on Sunday, you can sit in your backyard, stream some Flamenco music, and sip Spanish wine while you pretend the wind from your neighbor's leaf blower is actually a cool Mediterranean breeze. La dolce vida!

GAZPACHO WITH SAUTEED SCALLOPS

Servings: 10

Start to finish: 8 hours 20 minutes (Active time: 20 minutes)

4 pounds plum tomatoes, roughly chopped

3 medium green bell peppers, cored and roughly chopped

1 medium cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or as needed

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, or as needed

Garnish

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

10 sea scallops, pat dry with a paper towel

5 plum tomatoes, seeded, small dice

1 green bell pepper, cored, small dice

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, small dice

1 ear corn, boiled, kernels removed (optional)

1 jalapeno, sliced (optional)

In a large non-reactive bowl, combine the tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate overnight to marinate.

Transfer the vegetables and juices to a blender, working in batches if necessary. Blend until very smooth. Strain through a fine mesh sieve (see note), using a silicone spatula to press the liquid through the strainer until the pulp is very dry. Discard the pulp. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, as needed. Keep the soup refrigerated until serving.

Heat the vegetable oil in a medium non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the scallops, working in batches if needed to avoid overcrowding the pan, and cook until golden brown on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate as finished and set aside.

Serve the soup garnished with the diced tomatoes, pepper, and cucumber. Top with corn and jalapeños, if using, and the hot scallops.

Chef's Note: If you prefer a thicker, chunky gazpacho, skip the straining step. In this case, you might choose to peel and seed your tomatoes before marinating. To peel tomatoes, cut an X into the bottom of each tomato and drop into boiling water until the skin starts to loosen around the edges, about 20 seconds. Transfer to an ice water bath to cool before peeling.

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Nutrition information per serving: 193 calories; 115 calories from fat; 13 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 4 mg cholesterol; 188 mg sodium; 16 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 9 g sugar; 5 g protein.

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This article was provided to The Associated Press by The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.