Watermelon Gazpacho with Mint and Feta
During my stay at Rancho La Puerta, I had the privilege of taking a cooking class at La Cocina que Canta with visiting chef, David Cohen. This gazpacho recipe is his invention, not mine.
The location is technically on the Rancho La Puerta Grounds, but it is fairly far away from the lodging area on account of its massive garden. The garden is gorgeous and bursting with fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs. The class involved 5 different dishes – a soup, salad, 2 entrees, and a dessert. The students were told to find a partner and pick a dish to work on.
As many of you know, my mother is a baker, and I am pretty awesome at baking. For this reason, I was oh-so-tempted to beeline for the Vegan and Gluten Free Apple Tart station. However, I decided to challenge myself and work on my cooking skills. I ended up at the Watermelon Gazpacho with Mint and Feta station.
For those of you who just want the recipe, I’ll dive right in. For anyone who wants my post-class thoughts, you can stick with me until the end.
- 6 cups cubed watermelon (seeds removed) approximately 3 pounds whole
- 4 tablespoons white grape juice
- 1/4 English cucumber peeled and chopped
- 1/2 red onion finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper cored, seeds removed, and finely chopped
- 2 cups cantaloupe
- 1 cup cucumber finely diced
- 1/2 watermelon radish finely diced
- 4 ounces feta cheese
- 2-3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 24 fresh baby mint leaves
How to make it
In a blender or food processor, combine the watermelon, English cucumber, and grape juice. Pulse until just blended. (Over processing will lessen the color and sweetness of the soup)
Pour through a sieve. Press out all the juice. Discard the pulp. Save the liquid.
Dice the peppers, onions, and cucumber. Place into liquid along with the vinegar to taste and let chill while cutting everything else.
Complete dicing the cantaloupe, cucumber and radish.
When ready to serve, add the second set of diced items to the liquid. Ladle 4-6 ounces of soup into the bowl. Garnish with feta and mint leaves. Serve chilled.
Thoughts from a Non-chef
I didn’t really want to make this dish. I wanted to make a different dish, but a very snide lady claimed it first and did not want me as a partner. I ended up getting stuck with preparing soup (one of the few dishes I feel I am already quite adept at making) with a very flighty partner who wasn’t too fond of reading directions.
All that being said, I still learned some great stuff. Chef David Cohen helped quite a bit.
Lesson #1 – If you can get a seedless watermelon, for the love of God, do it. My partner was in charge of chopping and de-seeding the watermelon. It literally took her the entire class, so I was stuck with everything else.
Lesson #2 – Take the watermelon measurements seriously. We had to double the recipe since we had to feed the whole class. However, instead of measuring, my partner decided to just chop up the entire watermelon and toss it into the blender. This resulted is a overly soupy soup, when it was meant to be a chunky soup. Chef David had me stand watch, and while my partner wasn’t looking, we had to strain the soup, save the veggies I had chopped, and ditch a huge portion of the watermelon base.
Lesson #3 – Teeny tiny vegetables! I may not be an awesome chef, but I thought my chopping skills were at least slightly above average. Chef David assured me that they were, but that in order for each bite of the gazpacho to be its best, I should make the vegetables very, very small. If you keep them tiny, you have a better chance of getting every vegetable into each spoonful of soup.
Lesson #4 – Don’t worry if you don’t have all of these ingredients. La Cocina que Canta has a massive garden that grows pretty much every type of produce and edible flower imaginable. We hand-picked most of this stuff right before class. Obviously, most of you don’t have gigantic gardens at your disposal, so just make due with what you can find.