I’m going to say it: I find fault with what many of us have come to regard as classic gazpacho. I mean, I get the whole “tomato salad as a soup” thing, but I’ve never been able to get excited about it. When you take a base of raw tomato, celery, herbs, and vinegar you wind up with a pureed version of a salad I wouldn’t necessarily be fond of either, containing whole tomato seeds and a raw texture that borders on gritty. If you’ve found the same to be true, I urge you to think outside the box and start with this ingeniously simple gazpacho brought to us by Mark Bittman, the ultimate glorified minimalist. I first discovered this recipe about 5 years ago, and though I practice seasonal gazpacho promiscuity, this is one I make with great frequency.
A few things set this soup apart:
1) Tomatoes are combined with sweet melon to create a naturally sweet and creamy soup, that is the perfect, glistening apricot hue
2) Both the tomatoes and melon are briefly sautéed to coax out the natural juices and get the raw edge off
3) The tomatoes are peeled and seeded (yes, this means an extra step but the skins are bitter and the seeds are impossible to puree, so it’s really necessary to make this soup what it is), leaving nothing but the succulent flesh to be pureed into creamy deliciousness. Here is how I do it:
Core them by cutting a small divot out of the stem end of the tomato; then make a small ”x” in the skin of the opposite end. Prepare an ice bath, and then plunge the tomatoes into boiling water for 10 or 15 seconds. Quickly remove the tomatoes and drop into the ice bath. When cooled off, peel the skins with a small paring knife, cut in half horizontally and scoop out the seeds. I learned in school to use the back end of a soup spoon to scoop out the tomato cavities, it is the quickest way to get the job done.
This is a soup that takes a bit of planning as it must be very cold when served. Because it is so creamy and mild, this makes it taste like the best savory/sweet summer milkshake you could imagine.
By Mark Bittman, The New York Times 1999
4 tomatoes, about 1 1/2 pounds, blanched as directed above
1 3-pound cantaloupe
5 tablespoons olive oil
10 leaves basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Juice of a lemon.
Core, peel and seed tomatoes; cut flesh into 1-inch chunks. Seed melon, and remove flesh from rind; cut into chunks. Place a tablespoon of olive oil in each of two 10- or 12-inch skillets and turn heat under both to high. Add melon to one and tomatoes to the other, and cook, stirring, until they become juicy, no longer than 2 minutes.
In a blender or food processor, puree melon with tomatoes, 1 1/2 cups water and basil, along with some salt and pepper. Stir in remaining olive oil. Chill, add lemon juice to taste and adjust seasoning. Serve.