Nom Nom Paleo

Watermelon and Tomato Gazpacho

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True confession: As a child, I despised gazpacho.

Ever since that fateful day I tasted the bitingly acidic sludge my gastro-curious mom picked up from the neighborhood “gourmet” deli, I swore I’d never willingly eat chilled tomato soup again. It wasn’t until years later that I begrudgingly sampled a bowl of gazpacho at Oliveto’s and the scales fell from my eyes. Oh my. So that’s what gazpacho tastes like when it’s made with sun-ripened heirloom tomatoes and not V8 mixed with metallic-tasting canned tomatoes! These days, gazpacho is one of my favorite simple, make-ahead summertime recipes — especially when combined with the bright flavors of juicy watermelon, cool cucumbers, and crisp red peppers.

For this refreshing version of gazpacho, use the best tomatoes you can find. And no, removing the skins from the tomatoes and cucumber is not optional. Make this soup when you’re wilting under the heat of the summer sun, and you’ll thank me.

(Note: I made this recipe in a single batch ‘cause I own a gigantic, super-powerful, 64-ounce Vitamix. If you’ve got a smaller blender, divide the recipe in half or blend in batches. Alternatively, you can purée the soup in a food processor, but you won’t achieve the same smooth texture.)

Here’s what to gather to make 8 cups:

  • 2 pounds ripe tomatoes
  • 1 medium red bell pepper 
  • 1 hothouse cucumber (approximately 1 pound)
  • 2 small shallots, coarsely chopped
  • 4 cilantro stalks
  • 1 pound cubed watermelon (approximately 3 cups) 
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Here’s how you make the soup:

Gather the ripest tomatoes you can find and get ready to peel ‘em.

 

As I mentioned, peeling the tomatoes makes a HUGE difference in the final texture and taste of the soup. And tomatoes are easy to peel after you quickly blanch them and shock them in ice water.

Wanna see how to do it?

Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil.

Cut a small ‘X” on the bottom of each tomato with a sharp paring knife…

…and drop them into the boiling water for 30 seconds.

As soon as the time is up, transfer the tomatoes to a large bowl of ice water.

After the tomatoes chill in the bowl for a minute or two, their skins should slide right off.

Core each tomato and roughly chop them, reserving all the juice and seeds.

Next, grab the bell pepper and cucumber.

Lay the pepper on its stem-end and cut around the seeds and core…

…like this:

Chop the slices into a medium dice. (If your blender isn’t very powerful, chop the peppers into even smaller pieces.)

Peel the cucumber…

…and reserve a third of it to garnish the finished soup.

Roughly chop up the rest of the cucumber. Again, if you’ve got a wimpy blender, hack the pieces smaller.

Next, dump the shallots, cucumber, bell pepper, cilantro, and tomatoes into the blender, and…

 

…blend until puréed. Make sure to cover the lid with a towel to reduce splashes and splatters.

While the blender is whirring away, cube and de-seed the watermelon.

Once the veggies are liquefied…

…add the watermelon, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. 

 

Blend until smooth.

Voilà!

 

Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Refrigerate the soup in the blender cup for at least 4 hours or until it’s fully chilled.

The ingredients may separate a bit while resting in the fridge, so when you’re ready to serve, stick the soup back on the blender base and blitz it again to re-combine everything. And while you’re at it, dice up the reserved cucumber.

Ladle the gazpacho into chilled cups and top with a drizzle of olive oil, cucumber, and fresh cracked pepper.

It’s summer in a bowl.

Tomato and Basil Salad

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Whenever I throw together a simple recipe, I’d like to think I’m channeling Alice Waters, but in all honesty, I’m way more Paula Deen.

Sigh.

That being said, this dish will taste awful if you’ve got crappy, mealy, unripe tomatoes: you can only go simple if you’ve got kickass quality ingredients.

Here’s what I gathered to feed 4 people:

Here’s how I made it:

I gathered my ingredients…

…and started chopping!

I marinated the sliced shallots in my favorite aged balsamic for at least 15 minutes to mellow their bite.

Lastly, I plated the sliced tomatoes with the shallots, a splash of olive oil, a sprinkle of fleur de sel, a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper, and basil chiffonade. 

That’s it! Make this delicious salad before summer is over!