Saturday, May 31, 2014

Watermelon Gazpacho (and its garnishes)

In the late spring, when the heat of the day rears its welcome head, turning on the oven or even a burner on the stove begins to sound like a really awful idea.  These are the porch-sitting days, where we yearn to travel back to a time before air-conditioning when families sat outside on the porch and kids played in the front yards.  Because of the heat, there is an automatic desire for cooling, watery foods: enter the Gazpacho family.  Garnished with a sandwich, a salad and some fruit, this soothing yet spicy cold soup can really make sitting on the porch an even better experience.

One of my favorite porch lunches to prepare is Watermelon and cucumber gazpacho, cold shrimp pita sandwich with greens, tomato and mayo and fruit on the side. A tangy, vegan coleslaw made with 6 simple ingredients rounds out the plate and gives it that little picnicky touch.

1 piece of pita bread per sandwich
vegan mayo
1 tomato, thinly sliced
spring greens (or any green you prefer-arugula, etc,)
smoked salmon, left-over grilled shrimp, salmon, etc.

Grill pita on burner of stove or heat non stick frying pan to high and toast bread lightly on both sides until slightly browned.  Let cool.  Cut in half (use on half for bottom of sandwich and the other for top- see pic above).  Spread mayo thinly on both sides.  Put greens on bottom, then tomato slices, then fish.  Put other half of pita on top to make sandwich.  Cut in half and place on plate.

2 cups coleslaw mix: finely sliced green and / or red cabbage, broccoli stems and carrots
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
a little honey
2 tbsp vegan mayo

Pour slaw mix into large bowl.  Then, mix in mayo and vinegar.  This slaw is not an exact science. These are approximate measurements and it is recommended that one put in half of the vinegar and mayo, then mix with the slaw and taste.  If it does not taste saucy enough, add more until you get a mix that suits your taste.  Add a bit of honey (perhaps a 1/2 tsp at first) and taste.  Then add a little salt and pepper.

Plate the slaw in the middle of the sandwich halves.  Then put the extra watermelon outside of the sandwich and slaw, still on the plate, where there is space.  

You will need a food processor.

Although the recipe I used was from Tyler Florence, like any cook, I have changed it slightly to reflect my taste.  I added more vinegar and used a little more watermelon.  I also add more hot pepper, as I like my gazpacho to have a little more bite.  In addition to these little variations, I might add a little tabasco, as well. I like to vary the herbs suggested in the recipe- perhaps a little mint or cilantro, etc. I do not use the feta, but I'm sure it would be amazing with the garnish; I steer clear of cheese most of the time when allergy season hits, as lactose aggravates my hay fever.

The beauty of this recipe is that it is extremely easy to vary the ingredients and still have a delicious dish.  

  • 1 large tomato
  • 1/2 serrano or jalapeno chile
  • 2 cups cubed fresh watermelon (seedless works really well)
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar (or infused herbal would be delicious)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (I don't put as much in, but this is a personal choice)
  • 2 tbsp minced red onion
  • 1/2 seedless cucumber
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh herbs (dill, mint, etc.) plus more for garnish
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (I don't use this, but I'm sure it's tasty!)

In a blender, puree the tomatoes, chile, and 1/2 of the watermelon.  Pour in the red wine vinegar and olive oil and pulse.  Add the onion, cucumber and herbs and season with salt and pepper.  Puree until smooth.  Pour into chilled bowls and sprinkle with herbs, feta and remaining watermelon.  Serve.

Serve the plate and the cup or bowl of gazpacho together with a crisp white wine or sparkling water with lemon and mint.

Bonne d├ęgustation, as they say in French!