I’ll take the heat — Cantaloupe-Harbanero Gazpacho
The Recipe Painter
What happens when curiousity and creativity turn to obsession? Time both stands still and accelerates as your single focus shifts into warp drive in what is a mostly personal and singular activity. That blending of memory or inspiration into an exercise of chemistry, mixology, visualization, and cookery. Nearly painterly as elements are applied, tasted and plated. I can no longer simply eat. I drink in with my senses, an intake of color, texture, aroma, and taste.
My darling dear has learned to stand back as the frentic action in the kitchen leaves no room for second guessing which way this cook will turn. There seems no time for words, the pace is so fast with my mind racing from thought glimmer to action. The same applies when I pickup our camera.
Recipe creation is not the same as the sweet good natured communal dinner prep, a little sousing, wine and chit-chat. The laptop is out, my recipe journal opened, scratch paper notes jotted and crossed out, overwritten as an intermediate tasting changes order, quantity or addition. Music underscores the movement between counter, table, computer, paper and pencil. And, more seriously the recording of measurements so replication will have a greater chance. After all, that is how all of this blogging got started, when my family begged me to “write it down!” for fear that a good fix would be a one-time only event.
The story of my first taste of this gazpacho recipe has been previously regaled in the telling of how I tracked down Chef Chad Clevenger of Alma Cocina in Atlanta learn how he put this savory yet sweet and slightly hot dish together. He was generous in his time, but just like an expert the recipe was given in broad strokes. Kind of like how your neighbor might describe her favorite recipe.
“Oh, you know, it’s easy. I just put in some cantaloupe and a little this and that, maybe just a little harbanero to start, and don’t forget the sherry vinegar, or orange juice. Really, that’s all there is to it.”
Really, not that easy. The flavors I tasted were layered, complex and more perplexing, new to me. I had to remember, with eyes closed as each intermediate taste was analyzed to record exactly what I was sensing. Just so I could make it at home two months later. Like a detective I began researching and sleuthing clues from different types of gazpacho recipes for proportions, quantities, ingredient order and method. Finally taking plunge and assembling my ingredients.
Just look at these beautful colors. Don’t they make you happy? Just be a bit careful when handling your harbanero chili. Use gloves or like I did and simply use a plastic sandwich bag to protect the hand holding the pepper. This way the hot oils don’t get on your fingers and possibly in your eyes. Another tip, if you are more than a bit scared of the harbanero heat, just start out with one small side of the pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon chopped.) You can always add more after you taste your gazpacho while still in the processor. As they say, you can always add heat, but it is hard to take it way!
- 2 ripe cantaloupes (12-16 cups cut up)
- 1 english cucumber (1 cup cut up)
- ½ cup yellow onion, chopped
- 1 yellow or orange bell pepper (1 cup cut up)
- 1 harbanero chili (used about ½ teaspoon, chopped)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup yellow grape tomatoes, halved
- 1½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 slices white bread, cubed with crust removed
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ cup orange juice
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Avocado oil
- Fresh Cilantro
- Wash cantaloupe before removing rind (there may be pesticide residue on non-organic commercially grown produce) Cut melon into chunks.
- Peel cucumber and cut into pieces. Halve tomatoes.
- Assemble cut all fruit and vegetables in layers in a strainer over large bowl. Sprinkle each layer with a little kosher salt. This will help extract the juices. Let mixture sit and drain for about 30 minutes.
- Remove strainer and add lemon juice and sherry vinegar and bread cubes to the collected liquid, stir to make sure all liquid is absorbed. Note: you will want to use mild tasting bread, not sourdough so the flavor of the bread doesn't overwhelm the delicate flavor of the soup)
- Some recipes will have you place your fruit and vegetables mixture in the freezer at this point to chill them down before blending. This is a good idea for a make ahead step and allow you to time the blending and serving of your gazpacho to suit your needs as it all will be well chilled and can be served immediately. Alternately, I used the following steps and chilled the soup for a few hours before serving.
- Working in about two batches, add soaked bread, orange juice, fruit and vegetables on high in your food processor (or blender) for several minutes to fully puree your mixture. Slowly drizzle half of the olive oil and continue to blend on high speed. The olive oil will emulisify the gazpacho.
- Pour each batch into a large fine meshed sieve and work through. This will remove any remaining seeds or fleshy chunks and results in a very cream gazpacho.
- Place liquid in a large bowl and cover. Chill in refrigerator for at least two hours before serving.
- Ladle about 8 ounces in individual bowls, drizzle with avocado oil and sprinkle with fresh, chopped cilantro. Or if you grow or can find them, cilantro microgreens.