Apparently, sometimes a salad is supposed to be a soup. But definitely not a cocktail.
Here's what happened: I got a little cocky about my cucumber salad. You know, the one with the feta and the mint? The one that vogued for me and my little camera in all its glistening glory? All the compliments about the salad and the photo made me unforgivably smug and I almost, almost paid the price.
With friends expected on Saturday night I decided to re-create the salad with the addition of watermelon. But with all the skewers and the kofte and the peach tarte tatin (later) and the gougeres I made for hors d'oeuvres, I was pushed to my culinary breaking point.
So I cut corners. Wanting to dice the cucumber and the melon, I heaved out the Cuisinart and inserted the chopping blade. Put in the cucumber, and pulsed. Wow, that thing is really fast. I mean, the cucumber didn't so much as chop as shatter into little shards. It wasn't really the visual effect I was after, but if I could get the watermelon to behave the same way it'd be sort of cool. Shattered Cucumber-Watermelon Salad. Had a certain ring to it.
Only, you can guess what happened next. I stuck the watermelon in there and before you could scream "no!" the machine just demolished it. It lost all its shape and all I had left was a mess of watermelon pulp and some sad looking cucumber bits.
Guests coming. Little time. Could it be a cocktail? I whirled the machine until the cuke and the melon dissolved into one another, blending together for all eternity. Threw a little into a glass and added a splash of rum. Handed it to my husband. "What do you think?"
"Um, no." The look on his face said it all.
Down the drain with the drink, but then inspiration struck. A few hits of lime juice, then more, then more. In went the mint leaves I'd bought for the salad. A little salt. Okay, a lot. And then, the coup de grace: a glug of strawberry vinegar. I set it in the fridge to get nice and cold.
And then forgot to serve it. Good thing, too, because by Sunday the flavors had really melded and the soup was icy and refreshing. A drizzle of fresh olive oil over top, and we were in business.
Happiest screw-up I ever made.
Recipe for Accidental Watermelon Gazpacho
You'll have to really play with the quantities of lime juice and vinegar here, and definitely, definitely let the soup refrigerate overnight, or even longer if you can stand it. Strawberry vinegar was superb, but any fruit-based vinegar (or even balsamic or red-wine vinegar in a pinch) would lend the necessary acidic punch. I left my cucumber with the peel on, but the color might be nicer (re: more red) if you peeled it. Up to you. I omitted traditional gazpacho ingredients like peppers and onions, but get creative. If you dare.
1 seedless English cucumber
1/2 miniature seedless watermelon, cut in hunks, a few pretty little dices reserved for garnish
several fresh mint leaves, a few reserved for garnish
juice of 2-3 fresh limes
salt and fruit vinegar, to taste
drizzle of olive oil, for serving
Pulse the cucumber in a food processor fitted with the metal blade until finely chopped. Turn into a large bowl. Add the watermelon hunks and several fresh mint leaves (to taste) to the machine and puree. Pour into the bowl with the cucumber. (Alternately, you can process the cucumber and the melon together.)
Start adding lime juice until the flavor seems about right. I believe I used three whole limes. Do the same with the fruit vinegar, and the salt. You can always add more salt later while serving, so don't go whole hog.
Refrigerate overnight, ideally. To serve, place in bowls and drizzle with a little olive oil. Garnish with diced watermelon and reserved mint leaves, if desired. Frosty!