This beautiful chilled summer soup is a twist on traditional tomato gazpacho – one of my favorite warm-weather appetizers.  The combination of sweet cantaloupe, acidic tomatoes and fresh basil make this gazpacho spectacular.  The ingredients are quite simple, so the flavor of the soup really depends on the quality of the ingredients you use.  I only make this gazpacho when tomatoes and melon are in season: Ripe tomatoes that taste earthy and acidic, and sweet melon that’s beginning to melt in the center are the two ingredients that make this soup.

Don’t let peeling the tomatoes deter you from making gazpacho.  It’s really very simple if you follow this method:  Cut a small x in the bottom (non-stem end) of the tomatoes and drop them into boiling water for about 10 seconds; immediately plunge into ice water to stop the cooking.  When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, you’ll be able to easily remove the peel.  While peeling the tomatoes isn’t absolutely necessary, it makes the soup more refined and is really worth the extra step.

Serve this soup as a summer appetizer for a dinner party, or serve it in martini or tall shot glasses at a tapas-style party.  Remember to chill the bowls or glasses (keep them in the fridge or freezer for a few hours) before serving.  If you want to make this more of a meal, add some grilled prawns (large shrimp) and sourdough rolls.

This recipe is inspired by Jean-George & Mark Bittman’s recipe in Simple to Spectacular.

Tomato-Melon Gazpacho

1 medium cantaloupe (2 ½ – 3 lbs), seeded and cut into chunks (discard the rind)

5 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

4 medium tomatoes (about 1 ½ lbs), cored, peeled, seeded and cut into 1” pieces

1 ½ C. cold water (or 1 C. water and ½ C. ice cubes)*

12 basil leaves, divided

salt and fresh-ground black pepper

Juice of 1 lemon

1.            Heat 1 Tbs. olive oil in medium skillet over high heat.  Add melon to pan and cook until juicy (about 1-2 minutes).  Remove melon from the pan and place in blender.  Wipe pan clean and heat 1 Tbs. olive oil again over high heat.  Add tomatoes to pan and cook until juicy (again, about 1-2 minutes).  Remove from heat and add tomatoes to blender.

2.            Add water (and/or ice cubes), 10 basil leaves and remaining 3 Tbs. olive oil to tomato-melon mixture.  Puree until mostly smooth, leaving some chunkiness.  Add lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve cold, topped with chopped basil.

*I like to sauté the melon and tomatoes in advance and refrigerate them in the blender before pureeing the entire mixture so they have time to chill (you want to serve the soup nice and cold).  If you don’t have time to chill the ingredients after cooking, use ½ C. ice cubes in place of the water to keep the mixture cool.