Sunday, August 18, 2013

Watermelon Gazpacho

For the past few years I have gone on a summertime gazpacho kick.  What tends to happen is that Alex and I make at least 2 batches of gazpacho (some more traditional than others) over the course of the summer and I find it hard to resist gazpacho when it makes its way onto the menu at some of my favorite restaurants.  This summer I have expanded into trying the various take-out gazpacho offerings from my favorite soup and lunch places.  For the record, this summer I have been particularly into the Andalusian gazpacho from Zabar's (which I think is better than their traditional gazpacho).  I'm not exactly sure why, but I have been fixated on the idea of watermelon gazpacho since last summer.  I can't remember ever trying watermelon gazpacho but it sounded delicious, refreshing and oh-so summery.  I looked at a number of different watermelon gazpacho recipes and this recipe from CHOW seemed like a good starting point.  I meant to play with it a little more, but we ended up making it almost exactly as written.  I wish I had played with it a little more because there are a few changes I think I would have made.  I would have cut down on the amount of garlic, used shallot instead of onion and maybe cut down on the amount of vinegar.  Of course it's easy to say that I would have made those changes after the fact, because those are the same changes that I would make after having tasted the gazpacho.  I found the gazpacho slightly harsh and acidic.  I'm not really sure how to explain it, but it had a lingering aftertaste that I didn't find altogether too pleasant.  When I first tasted the gazpacho it didn't immediately strike me as harsh or acidic, but the more I ate, the more those flavors seemed to intensify.  We let our gazpacho hang out in the fridge overnight on the theory that the flavors could really meld that way and maybe that was the problem?  Maybe this is the type of soup you need to eat right then and there because given too much time the flavors overdevelop?  Who knows.  Either way, this wasn't our most successful gazpacho ever.  I am thinking that for our next gazpacho experiment we will make this Cucumber Gazpacho with Shrimp and Melon, which I considered (and discarded) for this batch because I decided I wanted a gazpacho that was more melon and less other stuff.

Recipe after the jump!

Watermelon Gazpacho
Available at CHOW
For basil oil:
1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup evoo
Kosher salt 
Freshly ground black pepper
For gazpacho:
1 1/2 pounds coarsely chopped cored tomatoes 
1 1/2 pounds coarsely chopped seedless watermelon
3 cups large-dice crustless day-old country bread, such as pain au levain
2 medium Kirby cucumbers, peeled and coarsely chopped (we used Persian cucumbers)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 medium red onion, coarsely chopped
3 medium garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
For garnish:
1/2 cup diced cucumber
1/2 cup diced seedless watermelon
Process the basil and olive oil in a blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper; set aside

Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine. Let stand for 15 minutes.

Working in batches, process the mixture in a clean blender until smooth. Transfer the puréed soup to a large, nonreactive bowl. Taste and season with salt as needed.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls, top with the cucumber and watermelon mixture, and drizzle with the basil oil.

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