A sophisticated chilled fruit soup for a summer dinner party.
Yesterday I served this chilled melon soup as the first course at my sister Judy’s birthday dinner. The soup is clean and refreshing, yet also complex and mysterious because of the infusion of mint and dry white wine, making it perfect for a special occasion during hot weather.
I’m not a raw-tomato-and-vegetable-chilled-soup kind of person, but I find chilled FRUIT soups to be divine. They usually consist of ripe fruit, wine, lemon juice, and some fitting herbs or spices. My Russian-Mennonite friends might think of this as a sophisticated take on “plumemooss” or “cherrymooss.”
I discovered this recipe in Anna Thomas’ newest cookbook Love Soup. She is a veteran, trustworthy cookbook author. Over the years, I have found her recipes to be exciting, reliable, and exquisite.
This chilled soup can be made with any dense-fleshed variety of melon, including but not limited to honeydew, Persian or Saticoy. I examined most of the melons in my local market, searching for the sweetest one. I happened to choose an “Orange-Flesh Desert Owl” melon, which looks like an orange-flesh honeydew.
My 4-year-old niece Nadia excitedly watched the soup preparation, and announced at the table, “This soup has no vegetables — only fruit!! It’s a fruit soup!”
CHILLED MELON SOUP WITH MINT
1 cup (200g) sugar, plus more to taste
3 cups (750 ml) spring water or filtered water
1 large, ripe melon (roughly 6 lbs or 2 1/2 kg)
2 cups (500 ml) dry white wine, such as riesling, pinot grigio, or sauvignon blanc
1/2 cup (120 ml) strained fresh lemon juice
pinch of sea salt
4-6 Tbs. finely chopped fresh mint
1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream (or 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1/2 cup greek yogurt)
Combine 1 cup sugar in a saucepan with 3 cups (750ml) spring or filtered water, and bring it to a simmer. When the sugar is completely dissolved, simmer the syrup for another 5 minutes, then allow it to cool completely.
Seed the melon, cut it into wedges, and slice away the rind. Cut the soft, ripe flesh in pieces and puree the melon in a blender or food processor. You should have about 5 cups of puree.
Pour the melon puree into a medium mixing bowl. Stir the wine into the melon puree. Add the sugar gradually, starting with a half a cup and tasting as you go, then adding even smaller amounts as the sweetness becomes pronounced. You might use 1 1/2 cups of syrup, maybe more, but you don’t know until you do the final balancing act of sugar syrup to lemon juice.
When the sweetness begins to assert itself, add 2 tablespoons of the strained lemon juice and a pinch of sea salt. Taste again. Now add a tablespoon of lemon juice or a tablespoon sugar syrup, tasting each time, until you achieve just the right tart-sweet balance without overpowering the melon flavor.
Stir in 2 tablespoons of fresh mint.
Remember, every melon is different, every lemon is different, every wine is different. Find the right individual balance for this combination. Use the leftover sugar syrup for cocktails, sorbet, or lemonade. Use the leftover lemon juice for salad dressing, or just about anything.
Chill the soup in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours. It is helpful to put it in the freezer for the last hour or so before serving.
Just before serving, add 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint to the cream, along with a little sugar if you like, and beat the cream with a whisk until it just begins to thicken. Taste, and add more mint if you like.
Serve this beautiful soup very cold, in chilled bowls, with a spoonful of the soft mint cream in the center of each serving.