Sweet Meets Savory Watermelon Gazpacho

or how to beat the heat and keep your waistline in one little bowl

I was innocently starting my day, heading out the door to work and stopping by my vegetable garden for some cherry tomatoes, when I walked outside and summer pretty much just punched me in the face.  I was shocked (a simple "Good Morning" would have sufficed) and I was not about to take this assault laying down, though going back to bed definitely crossed my mind at the time. There had to be a way to beat this humidity at its own game, as I pushed on to my car my mind began turning. 

Now just about the time when I was stopping for a frozen lemonade, I found myself daydreaming of cold soups.  Light, refreshing, rejuvenating, just about everything this weather was not.  It may have been the lemon talking, but once back on the road I decided that watermelon gazpacho would be the perfect weapon to have in my arsenal during the epic battle I was going to be facing against these hot and humid days.  A two fisted punch of crisp, sweet fruit and the savory undertones of fresh veggies is nothing to scoff at and, if that wasn't enough, it's easy to make extra reserves to have on hand just in case of an ambush.  As you look over the ingredient list please - don't let the garlic scare you off - you'll appreciate its contribution to the cause when you are done.  Now just take a slow deep breath, clear your mind of any preset prejudices against the upcoming union, and let's prepare for battle.  (You can close your eyes if it gets too scary, but it's easier to read with them open, just hang in there - your bravery will be rewarded.)

The tools you'll need to build your arsenal:
1 cup orange juice
2 - 3 cups diced watermelon, seeds removed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 orange bell pepper
1/2 green bell pepper
2 small sweet banana peppers
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 baby cucumbers
2 tbsp dried minced onion
3 tbsp lime juice
1/8 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1 tsp dried basil
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

1. Before you do anything else, finely dice all the vegetables leaving the cucumbers a bit bigger than the others.  This way you can ditch the cutting board and have plenty of room to set up the assembly line.

2. Add the orange juice, olive oil, and 1 cup of the watermelon to the blender and mix until smooth.  Pour out the results into a large bowl.

3. Stir in the lime juice, dried onion, garlic powder, and basil to complete the base.  Whisking it to ensure that it is combined is not a terrible idea at this point.  I recommend adding the vegetables one at a time so that they have a chance to incorporate more fully while the others are waiting their turn. 

4. Now its time for the cilantro, mix well so that it spreads evenly throughout the soup.  Season with the salt and pepper to taste before going any further as the next step is a bit more delicate.

5. Add any remaining watermelon and fold into the mixture so as not to crush the fruit.  You'll want to adjust the amount to your liking, depending upon your prefered fruit to vegetable ratio.  It then has to refridgerate for at least 3 hours so that the flavors have time to marinate, though I prefer overnight to give the watermelon time to soak up some of those savory flavors.  Serve well chilled.

And there it is - a sweet and savory weapon ready and waiting to fight that aggressive summer heat.  This dish can easily be used as a side to compliment heavier meals or grilled foods, it also fits nicely into a small package for an appetizer when served as "shots" or "food-tinis" along side other types of cold soups.  Personally, I like to make sure I have extra to pack into my lunches or just have on hand for a quick snack.  Remember - relax, refresh, enjoy!

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