Saturday, July 30, 2011


Watermelon Gazpacho          Photo by Valerie Phillips

Gazpacho, that raw, ice-cold Spanish soup, became a trendy dish during the 1960s when Americans became enamored with European cuisine. That was when other “international” dishes like Swiss fondue, Chicken Kiev and Beef Bourguignon were also in their heyday.
It’s still a popular soup to slurp during hot summer days, as Americans have added one twist after another to the traditional recipe.  
Lately I’ve seen a variety of recipes for watermelon gazpacho. Some contain both watermelon and tomatoes; others are strictly watermelon-based. They usually have cucumber and onion. Some go the Southwestern route with chiles, cilantro and lime; others are more Italian with basil and balsamic vinegar. Which is the best? 
I made a batch of “generic” gazpacho using watermelon, cucumber and red onion. Then I divided it in half. To one half-batch, I added cilantro, and the zest and juice of one lime. To the other half-batch, I added balsamic vinegar and basil.  
My verdict was in favor of the balsamic/basil combo. The balsamic vinegar seemed to bring out the watermelon’s sweetness, and the basil added an herbal hint without overpowering the refreshing cucumber-watermelon flavor.

The cilantro version tasted a tad bitter; maybe it was partly due to the lime zest. I didn’t add chiles, although some recipes called for it. I figured, why throw in a lot of heat if this is supposed to be a cool summer soup?  
Here's the version I liked best:  
Preparation time: 15 minutes
1 medium cucumber, peeled and coarsely diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil 
6-8 cups seedless watermelon, diced (about half of a medium-size seedless watermelon)
1/4 cup red onion, chopped 
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt, optional
 Peel and dice the cucumber. Chop the basil. Cut up the watermelon into chunks. Chop the onion. Place all the ingredients in a blender. Puree in a blender until chunky-smooth. Refrigerate until just before serving. Makes about 5 cups.

No comments: