Saturday, June 15, 2013

Gazpacho Pool Party!

Finding yourself poolside over the summer means lots and lots of gnoshing: chips, hot dogs, bugers, popsicles on a stick—but there’s a sophisticated summer snack that perhaps you haven’t pulled out of your picnic basket. It brings down your core temperature even better than ice cream, and keeps you light as a feather while you’re swimming. It’s called Grab and Go Watermelon Gazpacho, and if you haven’t heard of it (gazpacho), don’t feel bad.  Perhaps you studied French in highschool, or had a siesta when your teachers talked about the best cold soup and tapa in the Andalucia region of Spain.
For the unititiated, gazpacho is simply a soup—best served not just cold, but nicely chilled—gazpacho can be made from just about any fresh produce you have on hand: tomatoes of any color (a lot of people love Zebra or heirloom tomatoes), cucumbers of any type (I prefer an English cucumber in this soup), onion, cilantro and, in the case of the batch that was enjoyed today—2 ½ pounds of pureed watermelon!
When I got an email from someone attending a pool party, who wanted to bring something nice to the hostess, I have to admit that the first thing that came to this EXTREME PARTY planner’s mind was not gazpacho; it was a big, fat, simple—but seedless—watermelon. I pictured a tray of artfully cut medallions of watermelon topped with basil sprigs and feta cheese. This, in and of itself, is a great appetizer, and certainly, the 7 pound watermelon used in my poolside gazpacho recipe left enough juicy pink watermelon behind to make that too—but I was so satisfied with my own batch of soup, that I packed up the extra watermelon in an airtight container to use for MORE gazpacho when I get a chance.
I’m sure that when someone sees “Watermelon Gazpacho” they can’t believe it could be good. The optimists say, “Oh, a little weird, but it does sound like something you’d get on a 4-star cruise ship!” while fans of traditional chilled and savory soups can’t picture something so sweet and fruity as watermelon messing things up. I was among the skeptics, but a few tatsings as I went along preparing the gazpacho proved that the watermelon was going to be really mild—and perfectly counter balanced by the heat of a serrano pepper, tomatoes and cilantro. Maybe the reason, my watermelong gazpacho turned out so good is the “chill first, blend last” approach I used.
I usually just put ingredients for gazpacho straight into the food processor, but this time I mashed the watermelon with a simple potato masher in a pretty Le Creuset crockpot that was big enough to handle the load. Then I peeled, chopped and blended everything else, hand mashing it and letting all those flavors marry in the fridge overnight. In the morning, I poured the unblended gazpacho into a big airtight carafe with a snap-on lid, and froze it hours before the party. Once the party started, we poured the now semi-frozen gazpacho into the blender and it pureed to chilled perfection in the red party cups that usually contain beer.

“Fantastic!” a lot of the guests said. “Really, really, really, really good. And so fresh!” And I have to admit it was incredible. I dice up lots of veggies to pour over the top of my gazpacho and sprinkle feta cheese over all—and that makes me one happy camper on the patio chair with my plastic spoon. For those guests who don’t like it so chunky, there’s the option of drinking it right there in the pool, while you float around with half your cooled down body draped over a pool ring. Ahhhh…happiness!
Try it someday soon—watermelon gazpacho is amazing at the beach too!

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