"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Watercress and Apple Salad with Peanut Dressing and Watermelon Gazpacho

In New England, we know how to celebrate warm weather when we're blessed with it. For me, that means salads and cold soups. It's so fleeting, though! I'm looking at hearty stews for later in the week. Oh well. We take what we get.

For lunch on our 80 degree day yesterday I had gazpacho in mind, and specifically Watermelon Gazpacho.
To tell you the truth, when I skimmed this recipe I mistook it for another that I made last summer, a watermelon and tomato gazpacho. My husband got that one out of the Boston Globe--it's a popular summer soup at a place on the Vineyard. When I read my cookbook more closely, I was somewhat apprehensive...the recipe calls for some things I don't normally associate with gazpacho, like white sandwich bread, and ice cubes. And not a tomato in sight.

Undaunted, I pressed on. I didn't have whole almonds, so I used skinned ones, but that was pretty much the only substitution I made. The end result is a beautiful pale pink soup that has body (thanks to the bread and almonds) and a wonderful savory flavor that's hard to pin down (thanks to the watermelon, vinegar, garlic and almonds). If you are sensitive to garlic (or smelling like garlic) you might want to decrease from three cloves to two. Or one.

I always know I have a hit when I get quizzed about exactly what's in a particular dish. In this case I was actually hailed from the sun room to the terrace and asked to come out and explain.

A production note: I made this in a food processor, in spite of being directed to make it in a blender. But if you have both on hand I'd go with the blender--it filled my food processor to the brim and I had pretty little pink gazpacho rivulets all over the base...and the counter.

I don't often follow salad recipes. It seems so silly! I mean, how difficult is it to throw a salad together?

This recipe is an excellent example of why salad recipes can be a good thing.

Now, I have to confess that I didn't go flipping through the book and settle on this as a cooking goal. Sometimes I do things the other way around, which is that I will have an ingredient on hand and will look for a recipe to fit it. In this case, the S.'s daughter M. was visiting, and she had (as she often does) bags full of produce that she was transporting from one place to another. Yesterday she had, inexplicably, close to five pounds of watercress. She always tells me to use whatever I want, and thus...Watercress and Apple Salad with Peanut Dressing.

Note to would-be salad makers--watercress often contains sand. Unless you want cranky salad eaters, let your cress float around in a bowl full of cold water for a while so it can drop to the bottom, then get out that salad spinner that you never use.

I lacked only one ingredient for this recipe, and that was plain yogurt, for which I substituted low fat sour cream. I missed it though...plain yogurt has a clean tartness that sour cream lacks, and I think it would counterbalance the heaviness of the peanut butter. Oh, and another thing--I used natural peanut butter, which contains no sugar. The recipe doesn't specifically call for that (just smooth pb)but next time I might throw in a dash of sugar.

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