by Amanda Mattos
This weekend I had some amazing chilled tomato and cantaloupe soup at Tallula. It took cues from gazpacho but used the melon instead of cucumber. It had good heat but not too much acidity. The flavor was incredibly full, but I didn’t detect any garlic or much onion. But the most amazing part was the broth. Sure, in this case it was probably technically just juice. But having that clear liquid to float the finely chopped veggies and lumps of crab meat on really set it apart from so many gazpachos, which can sometimes end up tasting like salsa on a spoon. It was so damn good. Knowing the farmer’s market was the next day and that I had a dinner to go to, I set out to mimic the soup myself.
What I made was delicious! I took the approach of pureeing about 2/3 of the fruit, hoping juice would pour out, and then I could chop the rest. I knew I’d get some smashed bits in there and it wouldn’t be clear juice. I food processed, in stages, about 2/3 of a perfectly ripe cantaloupe, about a pound of tomatoes, a jalapeno, a sweet pepper, one small sliver of onion, salt, and a little lime juice. I stirred them all together, and added a handful of roughly chopped basil and some super sweet halved cherry tomatoes, and let that sit in my fridge until it was time to serve. Then I topped each bowl with lump crab meat. It was stupendous!
But it was nowhere close to Tallulah’s soup, as far as texture is concerned. I got the flavors right, but it was a denser pureed soup rather than a cool liquid with chopped bits. I’m guessing they actually have a juicer, which they used to make the “broth”, maybe thinned it out with some water, maybe some chili infused oil, and then topped with the chopped veggies. Or maybe they actually cooked the fruit down until they got a liquid and chilled that. I’m not sure! All I know is: I don’t have a juicer. And I’m not sure what other approaches I could take in my own kitchen to reach similar ends. Anybody have an idea?