The garnishes for the Blueberry-Watermelon Gazpacho, minus the avocado, which I forgot to cut!
Blueberry-Watermelon Gazpacho and Some History of Soup!
by Victoria Challancin
I did it. I caved in. I knuckled. I just gave up. I tried to stop being a food snob, and I almost succeeded. Remember when I whinged about people calling just any purée of vegetables a "hummus"? Even if it didn't have chickpeas, which are actually the word for "hummus" in Arabic, in the dish...Well, I confess to feeling the same way about "gazpacho." Gazpacho isn't just any old cold soup with chopped ingredients in it. Gazpacho is special. It is quintessentially Spanish. It is heavenly in hot weather. It is a peasant dish. It is not chopped watermelon and blueberries. Now that I have vented sufficiently on that subject, I want to tell you that whatever you call this soup, it is wonderful! Don't let the name throw you--you will want to make this delightful soup a regular on your summer table. (Apologies to all my dear readers from the Southern Hemisphere--I just ask that you tag it for your warm weather and promise you won't be disappointed!).
I wrote a lot about the history of soup in general, and gazpacho specifically here, where I made a two-tone soup with tomato gazpacho and tzatziki, one of my favorite yogurt dishes. At the risk of committing one of the cardinal rules of blogging, never repeat a post, I am going to repeat what I said about soup and gazpacho just because if you missed it, you might find it interesting. Or am I projecting? I always find food history interesting.
Soup: A Bit of History
Tracing the history of soup is probably impossible since cooking meats or vegetables in water or broth has been around for about 8000 years, or as long as man has cooked in waterproof vessels. Cold soups, are obviously newer, but equally difficult to pinpoint on a culinary timeline. We do know that many countries have had examples of cold soups that have been around for a very long time and are considered national classics: In Scandinavia, cold fruit soups are popular; in Russia cold borscht is perhaps even more popular cold than hot; the Danes love versions of buttermilk-based cold soups; the cold version of gazpacho is loved in many forms throughout Spain (thought it was born in Andalucia, as is shown by the Arabic roots of the word "Gazpacho"); Greeks positively shine with their chilled avgolemono soup, bright with the flavor of lemons; and let us never forget that sultry French bowl o cold potato and leek lusciousness, vichyssoise.
Looking at the etymology of the word "soup," we see that it based on a post-classical Latin verb suppare, which means "to soak," which was borrowed in turn from a German root sup-. From these words grew the Old French soupe, which originally referred to either a piece of bread soaked in liquid or a broth poured onto bread. In the 17th century, the word entered English where it referred to a broth or pottage. It wasn't until the 18th century that the idea of soup as a first course to be served with the meat or vegetable dish really came into being. Today we accept that soup can be a first course entry to a meal or a meal in itself. Sweet, savory, hot, cold, thick, thin, however we choose to enjoy it, soup is an indispensable part of our global culinary world.
As all recipe ideas grow and change, so do those for soup. Specifically, cold soups can be sweet or savory and can be used as a starter or even as a dessert.
Gazpacho, traditionally served cold, is basically a tomato-based, raw vegetable soup, rather like a liquid salad. White gazpacho, on the other hand, usually contains grapes, garlic, and almonds. Although there are numerous regional versions of gazpacho in Spain, most food historians agree that it has been around in the Iberian Peninsula since at least Roman times. Based on tomatoes, bread, water, vinegar, oil, and salt, gazpacho was sustenance to the peasants, particularly shepherds, in the south of Spain. Variations abound. But they might not include this Blueberry-Watermelon version. ;-)
The Gazpacho in three different serving vessels
The bright colors in full sunlight
Recipe: Blueberry-Watermelon Gazpacho
(Adapted very slightly from a Recipe by Ingrid Hoffmann from the Huffington Post)
6 cups watermelon, 5 cups in chunks without seeds, 1 cup cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, 1 cup lightly chopped, 1/2 cup left whole
1 medium cucumber peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 tablespoons to 1/3 cup red wine or fruit-infused vinegar
1/2 cup cilantro, basil, or mint leaves, chopped
1 small jalapeño, seeded and minced
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
1/2 medium yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 ripe Hass avocado, peeled and cut into slivers
Set aside a cup of diced watermelon, a cup of blueberries (some whole, some chopped), half of the cucumber, the red onion, cilantro, jalapeño, and yellow bell pepper for garnish.
Purée 5 cups of watermelon, the remaining blueberries and cucumber with the vinegar in a blender or food processor.
Pour the blended mixture into a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until well-chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 5 hours. Ladle into bowls and serve with the garnishes, allowing each guest to create his or her own dish.
Note: The original recipe calls for blending all but one cup of the watermelon, half of the blueberries, and half of the cucumber, adding the remainder to the soup. In this version, only the cilantro, onion, yellow pepper, jalapeño, and avocado are used as a garnish. It's basically the same thing, I just like looking at all the lovely colors on the garnish plate!
You might like some of these cold soups I have posted in the past:
Pineapple Gazpacho (tangy, fast, delightful)
Moroccan Gazpacho (cool, easy, exotic, and soooo delicious)
Tomatillo Gazpoacho with Feta-Olive Relish (unusual, snappy)
Chilled Gazpacho and Tzatziki Soups (a two-toned beauty)
Chilled Melon, Cucubmer, and Coconut Milk Soup (a nice variation with coconut milk)
Chilled Roasted Yellow Pepper-Mango Soup (proof that you can never use too many mangoes)
Chilled Zucchini Soup with Purslane (a little different--and so lovely)
Okroshka: Russian Cold Yogut Soup (probably my favorite!)
Parting Shot: Essaouira, Morocco
©Victoria Challancin. All Rights Reserved.
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