“What dreadful hot weather we have! It keeps one in a continual state of inelegance.”Jane Austen
Sometimes it’s too hot to cook. Sometimes it’s too hot to eat. But, eventually, we do. And if you can manage a meal with minimal effort, while (perhaps) drinking a cold glass of rosé, never breaking your stride nor a sweat, well…small victories count.
This summer we’ve been taking advantage of the seasonal marché offerings – one thing I’ve learned, and adhered to as gospel, is to listen to my vendeurs. It takes a while to build up a rapport, but once established, the relationship is gold. They will steer you to the better offerings, the primeurs, the ones just reaching their peak or, if your needs dictate, select a melon that will be ripe in 2 days, 3 days, Qu’est-ce que vous voulez?. And they have the almost quasi-mystical ability to get it right every time.
Often I will approach with a pannier full of peaches, or pears, or corgette et concombre, and Joseph will look them over, frown a bit, scoop them all up and disappear, returning with a different batch, “These are better, the others – not so good.” Or, “Les poires, eat them today, they are mûre.”
Or, when I hadn’t planned on anything involving red peppers, “You should take some of the poivron rouge.” So I take some of the poivron rouge, and make something absolutely right with them. At first I thought they were trying to up-sell, steering me towards the more expensive offerings, and indeed their recommendations are often for the pricier of two versions (the choice between local French produce and ‘imported’ from across the Med in North Africa) – but they will happily let me sample both, and they are always, always right.
Often, I don’t even gather the fruits myself, I just tell them what I want and let them pick for me. They know me, they know my family, how many of us there are, and they want our repeat business, so they trot out the good stuff. Maybe a question as to what I plan on doing with it. And there was a distinct shift when we started trusting them – they beamed, greeted us with honest pleasure, and began throwing in, gratuit, a bunch of radishes, or a bag of plums, a pineapple. When Jess and the kids aren’t with me they always ask after la petite famille, and send their regards. We consider them friends.
So when Joseph mentioned les melon verts were exceptional this week, the gears started turning as to what I could do with them. The variety in our marché is Piel de Sapo, a Spanish import – translates invitingly as ‘toad skin’, referring to its thick blotchy green peel. A bit like honeydew, subtler, sweeter.
But…sometimes it’s too hot to cook. Even at 8:30 am in a still cool and dappled marché, you know the canicule (a fun word to say, meaning the oppressive heat of a Provençal summer, less fun to sweat through) is coming. The concombre also looked good, and were on sale at 4 for 2 euros. A couple of herbs from our courtyard garden, a glass (or two) of wine later, no cooking, and this was lunch…
There are some (many) recipes where exact measurements don’t really matter. This is one of those. Depends on the size of your produce and preferences. Experiment, mix it up, don’t work too hard, it’s hot…
1 English Cucumber, peeled (or not, up to you) and cut into chunks
½ Melon Vert or Honeydew, seeded, removed from rind and cut into
½ Red Onion, coarsely chopped
10 Fresh Basil leaves
10 Fresh Mint leaves
Juice of one Lime
2-3 Tblsp Red Wine vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste
Extra cucumber sliced thin, basil leaves, and toasted pignoli for serving
*Technically not a ‘gazpacho’, but the easiest way to offer it to someone.
Now here’s the tricky part – put all ingredients (except garnishes) into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper if desired. Even without any additional liquids this is a very fluid soup. Transfer to a bowl and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.
Served cold, with a generous garnish of cucumber slices, basil leaves and pignoli. A fresh baguette and a chilled Viognier or crisp rosé complete the table. Crudités, especially free radishes from Joseph, and hummus would not be unwelcome.