As far as I’m concerned, summer is over. It’s time to usher in knee-high boots and butternut squash in place of sky-high ConEd bills and zucchini. I couldn’t be more ready for it, but can’t yet turn my back on the late season tomatoes begging to be devoured. I live for tomato season, so it would have been a travesty had I made it through the summer without a gazpacho under my belt, and I just managed to squeeze this one in right before Labor day.
I’ve seen a couple recipes for tomato-watermelon gazpacho lately and they had been nagging at the back of my mind. When I needed to make a first course for a casual dinner last week, I decided it was time. As gazpachos go, this one is a bit fussy, requiring a quick boil and peel of the tomatoes and charring and skinning of the pepper. I didn’t mind charring my pepper. As far as I’m concerned, access to an open flame is one of the fun perks of having a gas stove. Boiling my tomatoes on the other hand, seemed too tedious. If I was cooking for myself, those puppies would have gone directly in the blender, but as I was serving this to others, I bucked up and peeled (::cough::half::cough::) my tomatoes.
I felt that this sweetish soup needed a little crunch and salt, so I served it with a bruschetta slathered in feta mousse. Yes, mousse. Honestly, I was really just curious….feta, cream, and gelatin, 5 minutes on the stove, a quick spin in the blender, 30 minutes in the fridge and done. If it was a gelatinous disaster, I planned to serve the soup with crumbled feta; luckily, the mousse was just as delicious as the cheese it was made from.
The final product was as simple and sweet as you would expect from hearty late-season tomatoes and ripe watermelon. It was a perfect last hurrah for summer; now let’s bring on the fall.
Based on a recipe from the Lee brothers via Food and Wine
The original recipe calls for a red habañero chile, which I couldn’t find in my unpredictable grocery store. I instead used a “jamaican chile,” which, although delicious, probably wasn’t fiery enough. See if you can find a habañero, a bird chile or something equally terrifying. As mentioned above, I only peeled half my tomatoes; I used half large half small tomatoes and just couldn’t stomach peeling the tiny ones. I really don’t think peeling is necessary at all; texture is good. Finally, use a blender rather than a food processor if you have it- they tend to make smoother soups.
1 habañero chile
4 c. seedless watermelon chunks
2 large garlic cloves, grated on a microplane
2 lb. tomatoes, cored
2 T. red wine vinegar
1 avocado, for garnish
- Roast the habañero over a gas flame until lightly charred all. Let cool and then rub off skin with a paper towel
- Discard seeds and toss chile in a blender with the watermelon and garlic and puree until smooth. Remove to bowl
- Score the tomato bottoms with an X and submerge in a pot of boiling water for 10-30 seconds. Remove from the hot water and dunk in a waiting bowl of ice water
- When cool, peel the tomatoes and seed them. Honestly, here I just squeezed them with my hands over the sink. You don’t need to be precise about it and you can use up some aggression ;)
- Place the tomatoes in the blender and puree. Add the tomato puree and vinegar to the watermelon puree aand season with salt and pepper
- Garnish with avocado and serve with feta mousse bruschetta
Bruschetta with Feta Mousse
Based on a recipe from Gavin Kaysen, again from Food and Wine
This is delicious and could be used as a spread for sandwiches or wraps, or as a dip for crudité. Don’t be afraid of the gelatin (like I was), it’s not all weird. My only tip would be to buy a good, creamy feta; since I was skeptical about the outcome, I bought cheap feta and it was a bit grainy.
6 oz. Greek feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 c. heavy cream
3/4 t. unflavored gelatin softened in 1.5 T. water
1 small baguette, sliced 1/2″ thick
1/4 c. olive oil
1 garlic clove
For feta mousse
- In a small sauce pan, simmer the feta and cream over moderate heat until the feta is slightly melted
- Stir in the gelatin, transfer to a blender and puree until smooth
- Refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes, or over night
- Set oven to 400°
- Pour some of the olive oil on a large cookie sheet; rub both sides of the bread slices in the oil. They only need to be lightly coated. Add more oil as necessary
- Bake bruschetta for approximately 10 minutes, flipping each slice half-way through, or until golden brown. Watch carefully so they don’t burn
- Remove from oven and rub one side of each slice with the garlic clove
- Sprinkle warm bruschetta with salt