Last week I was in Washington D.C. for work and the weather was finally nice enough to enjoy dining outdoors (which, along with drinking outdoors happens to be one of my great passions in life). Although tempted by the burgers and hand cut sweet potato fries, I opted for a Greek salad and gazpacho, which is a cold soup made of raw vegetables, usually with a tomato base and ingredients like cucumber, red pepper, onion, garlic and fresh basil.
While the salad was your everyday weekday lunch fare, the soup warrants a mention here because unlike most gazpacho, which are loaded with fresh, crunchy vegetables and herbs, this one was pureed smooth and creamy like a bisque. Initially, I wanted to spend this weekend replicating that exact recipe, only with some of the fresh basil olive oil I have from my visit this past fall to the Queen Creek Olive Mill.
As I was searching for some recipe inspiration, visiting cookbooks and cooking websites as I usually do before I set myself loose in the kitchen, I found a fun twist on traditional gazpacho from Martha Stewart Living that I couldn’t help but attempt to recreate in my kitchen.
This particular version of gazpacho uses fresh watermelon and tart cranberry juice to balance the savory flavors. It’s super refreshing and you can’t really detect the flavor of the cranberry against the watermelon, basil and jalapeno. One of the main differences between my version of the recipe and the original is the use of basil instead of mint. I bought a basil plant at my farmer’s market and it’s been outgrowing my mint. I have been using it any and every chance I get, including as a substitute for some non traditional uses.
If you want to take a shortcut, buy pre-chopped watermelon from the produce department in your grocery store. It will save you time and the frustration of seeding a whole watermelon (unless you have the patience of a saint and a lot more spare time than the average home cook — no judgment). You can use any combination of your favorite herbs — just know the final product will vary a little.
To serve these at a cocktail party, put the gazpacho in cocktail shooters. To serve as the first course of a dinner party or alongside a salad or sandwich, I like to serve these in festive dessert or stemless martini glasses.
- 5 cups peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped watermelon, plus 1 cup finely chopped
- ½ cup cranberry juice
- 1 cup peeled, seeded, and diced cucumber
- 1 cup diced celery (about 2 stalks)
- ¾ cup diced red bell pepper (about 1 pepper)
- ¼ cup diced red onion
- ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, minced
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, minced
- Juice of 1 lime (about 3 tablespoons)
- 1½ tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1 tablespoon jalapeno pepper, minced
- Process the watermelon and juice in a blender or food processor until smooth. Discard the pulp; you should have about 3 cups strained liquid once you've removed the solids from the mixture.
- Add cucumber, celery, bell pepper, onion, basil, parsley, lime juice, sherry vinegar, jalapeno, and the remaining cup melon to the watermelon mixture. Stir to combine flavors and chill for at least one hour in the refrigerator, covered.
- Serve, or store in refrigerator up to 1 day.