25 June 2013

Watermelon Habanero Gazpacho

For some unbeknownst reason, I've been churning out an inordinate amount of soup lately.  Not one, not two but three within the past week.  That's a new June record for this foodie.  All three are delicious recipes that I've been meaning to post for some time.  The two previous posts have been hot soups, but this dish is a nice cold summer soup.  I've been waiting for this year's watermelon crop to hit the markets to share this refreshing Watermelon Habanero Gazpacho.  Perfect for an outdoor picnic or served poolside on a hot day, this spicy and refreshing recipe is fabulous for summer weather.

Last week, we bought our first watermelon.  Not a half, not pre-cut chunks and not the small seedless variety.  We got the Real Deal in a whopping 13 pound melon (capitals intended).  When strolling through the market, the hubs espied a bin of these big beauties and commented on how long it'd been since we've had one.  So naturally, I nabbed one to take home for our munching pleasure.  Upon cutting into this beast, I realized that our eyes may have been bigger than our stomaches could possibly stretch.  We were prepared for watermelon, but not quite this much......

Never one to back down from a food challenge, we have tacked this melon with gusto.  We've been throwing it on salads, making boozy poolside snacks and munching on cubes all week.  And I'm proud to say that after making this soup, we're down to our last container.  Not too shabby, tummy.

Gazpacho is one of my favorite sides in summer.  Cool and refreshing, this soup is best served chilled on a blistering hot day.  Traditional gazpacho is has a tomato and cucumber base with various vegetables and spices.  Now cucumbers and I have a tenuous relationship, teetering on the line of sheer hatred.  I can't stand their smell or their flavor on salads.  The hubs loves them, and happily accepts every slice that I pass his way when we're out at dinner.  I have two exceptions to my self-imposed cucumber ban:  tzatziki and gazpacho.  In these two dishes, I can accept their pungent flavor and scent in combination with the other delicious ingredients that I love so much.  In this cold soup, their crisp mellow flavor is perfect with the sweet watermelon to help balance out the hot habanero.

Now I love the habanero in this soup.  It packs more heat than a jalapeno or serrano and has a nice tangy, almost floral flavor that pairs perfectly with the watermelon.  I remove the seeds and membrane to reduce the heat from absolutely overbearing to a bit more balanced.  But be forewarned, this soup has quite the kick.  It starts out subtle in the first bite as a light, lingering heat and grows with every bite you take.  It's the kind of soup you either sip slowly or serve as a side.  We like to eat this with grilled sesame asparagus or white cheddar Cheez-It's (yeah, we're classy like that).  Obviously, the more habanero you use, the more heat you will get.  We use a full pepper for ourselves, but only a half when making this for company.

To help tone down the heat, I created this salted watermelon and cucumber salad as a cooling garnish.  The small chunks of cucumber and watermelon help to break up the heat a bit and calm things down for your tongue.  It's also great as a salad on its own in hot weather - cool, crisp and refreshing.

Watermelon Habanero Gazpacho (about 4 half-cup servings)
  • 1/2 - 1 habanero pepper
  • 1 cucumber (about 1 1/3 cup prepared)
  • 3 c watermelon
  • juice from 1 lime (about 4 tsp)
  • 1/3 c cilantro
  • pinch salt
  • Watermelon Cucumber Salad (recipe below)
Prepare your habanero on a cutting board.  If you have sensitive skin, you may want to wear kitchen gloves to protect your hands.  Stem the habanero and cut the pepper in half length-wise.  Remove the seeds and membrane with a pairing knife and discard.  Finely chop the pepper with a knife and transfer to a food processor.  Wash your hands well to remove any lingering capsaicin.  Be sure not to touch your face until your hands are clean.  Wipe the cutting board with a paper towel and discard.

Once your cutting board is clean, peel the cucumber and slice in half length-wise.  Remove the membrane and seeds with a spoon and discard.  Chop the cucumber into small cubes.  Transfer one cup of the cucumber into the food processor - the rest will be reserved for the salad. 

Add the watermelon, lime juice, cilantro and a pinch of salt to the food processor.  Once all ingredients are combined, process until very smooth.  Transfer to a bowl and chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.  Serve in bowls, garnished with the Watermelon Cucumber Salad.  Can be made a day or two in advance.

Watermelon Cucumber Salad
  • remaining 1/3 c diced cucumber 
  • 2/3 c watermelon
  • 1 tbs cilantro, minced
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • 1/8 - 1/4 tsp salt
Chop the cucumber and watermelon into small cubes about 1/3 to 1/2 inch square.  Add the cilantro, lime juice and salt.  Stir to combine, then cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.  

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