Watermelon Gazpacho, Live from New York

July 16, 2009


Appetizers, Summer, TASTE Archives

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Most of the year I feel blessed to live in Houston. Though I am a Yankee by birth, those long stretches of winter really do take the feather out of my cap—and threaten to take the green off my plate. Year-round farmer' s markets that profit from harvests December-March are a true Texas luxury. In fact, I have to keep myself from bragging about our 364 day bounty to friends and family who suffer through the icy spell that endures up North from late November through late April.

But inevitably June comes and the tables turn. The change is often heralded by a profusion of eggplant and okra—the only edible plants that truly thrive through a gulf-coast summer. As a lone star arriviste, I either swelter or flee: usually a little bit of both. I am a fair-weather friend, indeed. Someday this will change, but for now, I enjoy the peripatetic luxury of having no kids and a generous boss. And I can joyfully report that the markets and farms in this cool, clear (and reasonably un-humid) part of the world have been extraordinary. They' ve been visions that make my eyes pop from my head like a salacious gent at a peep show. Yes, it is true: in my mind delicate, red raspberries, plump cherries and bunches of thick, colorful carrots are about as sexy as it gets.


Last night I visited Emily for a reunion dinner of sorts, wherein I drank a lot of wine (her gracious beau, John, had to go out and fetch more after I downed the only bottle I had brought… shame, shame, shame on me) and watched as the prep work and cooking took place gracefully in my midst. Emily has a way of preparing food that makes it seem like she' s just chatting and spending time. And suddenly—presto! Dinner has materialized, and just in time for me to befriend the cuddly Gus, who, like me, has a nibbling problem—though his centers around fingers, toes and ankles.

It was a simple, vegetarian feast procured from the market at Union Square. We' d spent the morning amassing beets, carrots, greens, cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, watermelon, shallots and mint in anticipation of a vegetarian feast. Even some fresh feta was procured from a local goat—though not directly.

We parted ways until 7pm, and reunited to prepare a watermelon gazpacho, roasted beets and green salad. Everything, but everything we ate was local, with the exception of our salad toppings and a handful of olives. I could feel Michael Pollan smiling from inside the back flap of his book in my purse.


I am especially fond of cold soups, and cold, sweet soups really get my gonads going. I have an impossible sweet tooth—almost an insatiable one—and the smooth, cool gazpacho was the perfect dulcet end to the savory roasted beets and vinaigrette-slathered salad. Topped with olives, mint and feta cheese, it was a beautiful balance of lemon, sweet, light watermelon and tomato, rich feta, salty olives and clean mint. It was a joy to spoon—especially since the beet roasting rendered Emily' s cozy West Village apartment slightly cozier than one might want mid-July. But the heat was nothing a few bottles of icy Sauvignon Blanc couldn' t mollify.

When it was all said and done, Mr. Pollan and I settled into our perch on the 6 train to talk about organic farming, but mostly to eye-ball the 11pm commuters, a healthy mix of drunk tourists and bleary-eyed bankers on their way back uptown. Never ride the Subway without some kind of cover to hide behind: there really is nothing better than people ogling in New York. Oh Big Apple—I do adore you!


Watermelon Gazpacho

2 c cubed watermelon

1 large heirloom tomatoes

1/4 c almonds, chopped

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

juice of 1 lemon

feta, mint and black olives for garnish

s & p


Blend watermelon, tomato, almonds, lemon juice, vinegar and a bit of salt in a blender.

Transfer to serving bowl (season for taste) and let chill in the refrigeator. (Add some ice if serving immediately.)

Top each bowl with mint chiffonade, chopped black olives and some feta cheese just before serving.

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