I fell in love with it on my first holiday in Madrid, Spain. I was so lucky to spend two whole weeks at a friend’s home with her family. The most detailed memories I have (it was a long time ago.. ohmy. Don’t make me count the years) are of food: cold horchata soon after arriving, which I did not like that much, but was great for recovering from the heat; falling in love with the street food (my favourite ever: bocadillo de calamares, a crunchy baguette filled with fried squids); and starting every dinner with a glass of gazpacho, cold from the fridge. Sour, refreshing, nutritious, and as heavy as hell. This little beauty can include anything from raw garlic and onions, to a more than generous amount of vinegar and olive oil. And I am one of those who never had problems with raw peppers or cucumbers… Not that I disliked the final result, mind, and I actually tolerate raw flavours much more now than then.
In the years I tried to reproduce the original recipe many times, but I never really got around my dislike for vinegar enough to stick to the classics. But when it is summer, anything which includes lots of fresh vegetables and little cooking is very welcome. So I have tried my fair share of recipes. One of my favourites is the green version featured in Plenty. It is very unusual as it contains raw spinach and walnuts, and no tomatoes. It is also extremely nutritious, a full dinner by itself, almost. On the opposite side of the scale there is this version, which comes from Pietro Leemann‘s book, with a certain number of tweaks. I am starting to cook more and more out of the book and I am finding it very inspiring: a cookbook love which is growing with time. This version is so light you could even dilute it slightly (maybe with something boozy) and serve it as a drink. You are not short of flavour though; actually for the unlucky ones who need to spend a whole summer without proper tomatoes, but are blessed with a cooler climate that allows for oven usage (e.g., me), the tomato roasting step is a great asset to actually get some flavours out of the red things. It also has the prettiest colour. A great light starter. You can even make the recipe quicker by skipping the straining step, and get a slightly less smooth consistency.
Watermelon and roasted tomato gazpacho
Ingredients (makes 3 glasses):
500 gr red, ripe tomatoes
1 medium shallot
300 gr watermelon, without skin and seeds
salt & pepper
olive oil (use a delicate and good quality one, you can definitely taste it here), 1 tablespoon
3 tablespoon yogurt,
3 tablespoons finely diced cucumber,
1 pinch sweet paprika
preheat the oven to 150 degrees. Wash the tomatoes and cut them in half. Peel and cut in half the shallot. Put on a baking try, cut side down, a drizzle with coarse sea salt, black pepper and a little olive oil. Roast for half an hour, until slightly wilted and with some roasted juices on the bottom, but not dry. Allow to cool, then process with a hand blender (can be made a day ahead). Also blend the watermelon, without seeds. Pour some of the blended watermelon in the tomato pan to scrap off any roasting juices.
Sieve the soup through a mesh strainer to get rid of any leftover seeds or skin.
Add more salt, black pepper and some olive oil. Taste and adjust seasoning. If it tastes a little weird because your watermelon was very sweet, add more salt and olive oil, it will balance out the flavours. Chill in the fridge. Ten minutes before serving move it to the freezer. Right before serving, pour in glasses, add a tablespoonful of yogurt, a few cucumber dices, and a sprinkle of sweet paprika.