This exact time last year, the chef and I were lost somewhere in Provence roaming in and out of the most lovely apothecaries, snapping poorly posed photographs, getting wildly sick following a few indulgent bowls of rockfish soup, bathing in olive oil (literally), generally being amazed by the beauty of lavender and olive groves and life, and eating cantaloupe with absolutely everything.
Back then, neither of us thought that just one year later we would be knee deep in grout, our hands calloused from hours spent sanding and learning to use something called a paint eater (did you know that was a thing? The chef let me go around openly calling it a "paint heater" for three full days). But here we are, about as far away from the idyllic French countryside as one could imagine and instead paint-covered and lost in a different dream of sorts.
It has been nearly two years since we sold our very first sandwich at the now defunct (still so sad) Dekalb Market in Brooklyn. Since then, we've been fortunate enough to serve our food at all sorts of wonderful markets throughout NYC and have even been invited to come play at places like IFC and the New York Stock Exchange. All these memorable moments aside, the one thing we've been missing has been our own permanent address (as well as a door, a window, and neat little things like that).
And now, after six straight months of searching and negotiating and stressing and wondering if anything we've done is right, here we are. Currently, the shop itself is a pleasant sort of mess (are we? probably, yes), a completely blank slate that we get to create and design and hopefully not destroy (easy with that professional-grade sander, eh?).
Have you ever yearned for something so badly that it keeps you awake at night, all twisted and turning and sweating in your otherwise perfectly clean sheets? Or longed for something so deeply that no matter how happy of a moment you are living in you can't seem to concentrate on anything other than that one thing you ache for? I feel like the poetic or philosophic term for this phenomenon is "dreaming." And for the chef and I, the idea of having our own brick and mortar shop has been pretty much just that: a dream. But now slowly (sloooowly) it is turning into something a bit more tangible, which is still pretty damn hard to believe. Though I hate to admit it, it turns out that all those Disney flicks my parents forced upon me when I was a kid were right: dreams really do come true (if you work crazy hard and are willing to get ugly green paint all over your most favorite American Apparel tee).
This past weekend, in between the green paint incident, a few too many Home Depot trips, two-hours spent in gridlock on the West Side Highway, a round (or three) of cheap beers with friends and a quick visit with family, it occurred to me that we should probably, at some point, eat. It was clear before I even pulled out a plate that we were short on time, and yet, sweaty and dust-covered, I craved something cooling and satisfying and impossibly fresh. Which brings me back to Provence.
This Cantaloupe and Mint Gazpacho is fast, refreshing and perfect for days when you crave something homemade but are on the go. While the melon is sweet, the gazpacho has an underlying bold flavor, thanks to the pairing of roasted (as opposed to fresh) onion and a hit of white pepper (which I'm currently obsessed with, but more on that at a later date).
I hope this summer soup will help you cool off/show off to your friends/use up an overripe melon/find you mediating on your own dreams.
- 1 Vidalia onion (peeled and quartered)
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (plus 1 tablespoon)
- 1 medium cantaloupe (peeled, seeded and cubed)
- 1/2 cucumber (peeled and roughly chopped)
- 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup cold water
- 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
- 2 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange the quartered onion on a baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bake until the edges of the onion begin to brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
In a food processor, puree the cooled onion, cantaloupe, cucumber, sugar, water and 1/4 cup of the mint leaves. Blend until smooth. With the food processor still running, drizzle in the remaining olive oil, salt and white pepper. Refrigerate the gazpacho until immediately before serving. Garnish with remaining mint leaves (thinly sliced).