Maybe I was channeling my inner Jose Andres, but when my daughter presented me a mango-smoothie popsicle she’d made with her new Zoku popsicle maker, I immediately wondered how I could use this new toy in a different way. We had a dinner party planned, the weather was scorching, so it seemed only natural to welcome our guests with a refreshing popsicle as an appetizer!
The Zoku is not unlike a home ice cream maker – it is basically a canister you keep in your freezer, then use it to form and freeze a recipe you make up for whatever flavor popsicle you desire. Of course, it comes with expensive accessories, and once you (or your child) are hooked, you’ll want them all – these include extra popsicle sticks, gizmos for making layered, angled and multi-flavored creations, and a nifty box for storing six finished popsicles in the freezer.
Following my bizarre idea of pulling this toy from dessert to the top of the menu, I whipped up a batch of gazpacho, using Andres’ recipe from “Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America.” I figured if it didn’t work the soup would still make a great summer first course. But I feared frozen gazpacho would only go so far, and once the laugh value wears off (oh say, by the third or fourth bite) it might risk becoming ho-hum.
Then I recalled a tapas I’d enjoyed years ago at Jaleo, Andres’ flagship restaurant in downtown D.C., that simply paired spheres of exquisite tomato with refreshing watermelon, sprinkled with salt and drizzled with olive oil. So I pureed some watermelon with lemon juice, sugar a generous pinch of sea salt and some mint leaves, then strained it (to remove the mint, strictly optional) and used this as a base for the bottom layer of the popsicles.
Well, I should say my daughter used it – as the house “popsicle chef,” she insisted on actually creating the popsicles even if she had no intention of eating one of them. When I mentioned there was garlic in the gazpacho, she looked as though she would never use her contraption again, but she did a bang-up job, even decorating the final creation with cucumber stars to mimic the traditional gazpacho garnish.
Our guests were, to say the least, flummoxed by the thought of eating dessert first, even a savory one, but they lapped up the popsicles. (They had to, or else it would be very messy.) And when they got to the watermelon layer, the minty fruit served as a wonderful palate cleanser. The few bites where the layers mingled were divine.
Okay, I hear you ask, but what wine would you serve with a gazpacho popsicle? Dr. Vino might think it would be an “Impossible Food Pairing.” As it turned out, we were drinking a 2000 Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru from Pierre Morey (it pays to know who to invite to such a party), but I suspect any of the Spanish white wines I recommend in today’s column in The Washington Post would do nicely. If you want something a bit more substantial, I suggest the Cifras 2010 Garnacha Blanca from Rioja, a rich wine with hints of talc, lemon curd and guava. (Distributed by Elite Wines, SRP $30). Another possibility is the PR 3 Barricas Rueda 2008 from the Prado Rey winery. This wine is almost as bizarre as a gazpacho popsicle, in that it is a barrel-fermented verdejo. This treatment is not common in Rueda, and I don’t champion it – but the PR 3 Barricas is intriguing with its lemony core (savory, preserved lemons) and very apparent oak which, while not yet fully integrated, lends an enticing spice character to the wine. (Distributed by M Touton Selection, SRP $28).