Watermelon Tomato Gazpacho
If you've been reading along, you'll know that I've been aspiring to bring my lunch each and every day to the not-so-little gallery where I work on the Upper East Side. For a couple of reasons. First, it's too damn expensive to buy lunch every day on the Upper East Side. When I first moved to NYC, I received a guidebook from my school which instructed us to look very closely at people exiting or entering townhouses on the UES. Because those people are, as it said, very, very rich. Which is why I have to take a train in from much further uptown. Way past where the eponymous Uptown Girl would have lived.
So I'm trying valiantly to brown bag it every day. And since the not-so-little gallery doesn't really have a place for eating, my office-mate and I take our lunches to Central Park and sit on benches, listening to kids play and one street performer in particular go to town on some kind of stringed instrument. And every day, we walk past the same gourmet food truck New York is so crazy about. I swear they time their frying of slabs of thick-cut bacon destined for avocado BLT's for exactly 1:00 so that the little salad I've inevitably brought will start to look a little sad. Or at least, exactly not like bacon. The other week I found myself without lunch, which was still back at my apartment, left in the morning hurry, and passing by the cart. So I ended up with that avocado BLT and a cup of their heavenly watermelon gazpacho.
Of course, I'll admit to loving pretty much every gazpacho I've ever tried. And if I had to pick a favorite food, gazpacho would make the top two (and I can't think of the second). But this was the first time I'd had a watermelon version. Theirs is spiked with vinegar, with little chunks of fresh watermelon (and that part is key) floating in the purée. But remember all that stuff I said about buying lunch on the UES being too expensive? That still holds true for food carts and $8 BLT's with a side of $5 soup. So the only thing left to do, is make it yourself.
I looked at quite a few recipes for Watermelon Gazpacho, but none of them where quite right. It needed vinegar, like my food truck version, and chunks of diced vegetable to ward off the monotony of a completely puréed soup. Plus, I noticed that most of the versions I found did not contain bread as the base for the soup. And in the words of one of my favorite food writers, Anya von Bremzen, it's the bread that makes gazpacho a meal. In the recipe below, although I say to add more of each vegetable/fruit chopped for garnish, what I really mean is that you should chop a whole bunch extra so that you can ladle your soup over a pile of fresh chunks. Garnish is really a misleading word here. This serves two purposes. The soup tastes better that way, more substantial, with something to chew on. And you can use up any little leftovers, like the rest of your watermelon or the whole bunch of tomatoes.
Watermelon Tomato Gazpacho
From the Cooking Books Kitchen
1 1/4 lbs watermelon (about 4 cups chopped) + more for garnish, chopped
1.4 lbs ripe tomatoes (about 4 medium tomatoes), chopped, one of them held aside for garnish
1.5 lbs cucumbers (about 1 very large cucumber), peeled and chopped, hold 1/4 of it aside for garnish
2 large stalks celery, chopped
4-5 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 loaf of peasant bread, crumb removed from the crust (you can discard the crust)
Soak the crumb of the bread in water while you chop the vegetables. When the vegetables are chopped, put what you're holding aside for garnish in a separate bowl and set aside. Ring extra water from the bread.
Purée the watermelon, tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, lime juice and bread in batches in a blender. Season with the sherry vinegar and with the salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, spoon some of the reserved vegetable chunks into a bowl, then ladle the soup over it. This way you get the goodness of both a puréed and chunky soup!