Dear SOS: My husband and I celebrated our 15th anniversary with a beautiful lunch and wine tasting at Tierra Sur, the restaurant at the Herzog Winery in Oxnard. To begin the lunch, I started with an heirloom melon gazpacho. I can't get the flavor combination out of my head. Although I have searched, I can't seem to find the ingredients that would have gone into that recipe. Do you think the chef at Tierra Sur would share this terrific summer cold soup?
Dear Beth: Chef Todd Aarons was happy to share his recipe for this light, refreshing soup, perfect for this time of the year. He suggests using heirloom melons from the farmers market, such as those from Weiser Family Farms. He particularly likes their Sugar Queen, butterscotch or Ogen melons. Aarons also suggests using slightly underripe melons, since you don't want the soup to be too sweet.
Tierra Sur's heirloom melon gazpacho
Total time: 30 minutes, plus chilling time
Servings: 4 to 6
Note: Adapted from chef Todd Aarons at Tierra Sur in Oxnard.
2 cups cubed French baguette or batard, all crusts removed, and cut into small cubes (about 1 baguette), divided
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons white wine, Champagne or sherry vinegar
4 cups cubed, peeled and seeded melons (preferably heirloom, such as Sugar Queen, butterscotch, Ogen, Ananas)
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra oil for frying the croutons
3 dried bay leaves, ground to a powder
0 Sea salt
1/2 cup ice cubes, or as needed
0 Smoked paprika, garnish
1. In a bowl, soak 11/2 cups cubed bread in the vinegar.
2. Meanwhile, using a blender or food processor, puree the melons and red onion. Add the soaked bread and vinegar to the food processor and puree until completely smooth.
3. With the motor running, slowly add the one-fourth cup olive oil, then the ground bay leaves. Taste, and adjust the seasoning with salt.
4. If the soup is overly thick, add a few ice cubes and puree until the desired consistency is achieved. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and vinegar.
5. Transfer the soup to a non-reactive metal bowl and chill before serving. This makes about 4 cups soup.
6. While the soup is chilling, fry the garnish. Pan-fry the remaining cubes of bread in a hot skillet with a little olive oil until evenly toasted and golden-brown. Season to taste with a light sprinkling of salt.
7. Serve the soup, garnished with a few croutons and a sprinkling of paprika.
Each of 6 servings: