Watermelon and Cantaloupe Gazpacho takes advantage of the wonderful melons that are abundant at this time of year. It’s a refreshing end-of-summer soup and a choice dish with which to launch a Labor Day party. I call it a gazpacho, but I’m using the term very loosely because it makes no use of tomatoes. What puts it within shouting distance of the classic Spanish soup is that it’s served chilled and it’s chunky.
There are a few key steps in the making of it. Start by looking for the ripest melons you can find. The watermelon should have a large yellow or white mark somewhere on its skin. This tell-tale spot is the one on which the melon rested as it grew. The more pronounced the spot, the more time the melon has spent ripening. The cantaloupe should boast a rich golden color and smell strongly of, well, cantaloupe when you take a whiff of its stem end.
To achieve the smoothest possible texture, you will need to puree the melon in a blender. No other machine produces so creamy a result. To point up and counterbalance the melon’s natural sweetness, start with the suggested amounts of lemon and lime, although you may decide to add more if your melon is exceptionally sweet.
Heat, like acid, is another way to balance sugar, which is why I’ve built some chopped chiles into this recipe. But I also happen to be a fan of the hot stuff. If you’re not, leave them out. The feta cheese contributes not only to the unique flavor of the soup, but also adds a dose of saltiness, providing some welcome contrast to the sweetness of the fruit. But feel free to swap in sour cream if that’s what you’d prefer. The mint is a strong accent all by itself, but you could replace it with basil and/or cilantro — or add them to accompany the mint. However you adjust the flavorings, be sure to serve the finished product chilled.
Start to finish: 3 hours 45 minutes (45 active)
6 cups coarse chunks plus 2 cups small cubes cantaloupe
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
6 cups coarse chunks plus 2 cups small cubes watermelon
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 cup chopped strawberries
3/4 cup crumbled feta
2 tablespoons shredded mint
1 small jalapeno or serrano, chopped, with seeds and ribs
In a blender puree the coarse chunks of cantaloupe with the lemon juice until very smooth. Transfer to a pitcher and chill at least 3 hours.
Rinse out the blender, add the coarse chunks of watermelon and the lime juice and puree until very smooth. Transfer to a pitcher and chill for at least 3 hours.
To serve: Pour both soups from their pitchers into each bowl at the same time from opposite sides of the bowl so that the soups stay basically on opposite sides. Drop some of the cantaloupe cubes into the cantaloupe half of the soup and some of the watermelon into the watermelon half. Top each portion with some of the strawberries, cheese, mint and chiles.
Nutrition information per serving: 147 calories; 33 calories from fat; 4 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 13 mg cholesterol; 157 mg sodium; 28 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 23 g sugar; 4 g protein