Chilled Cucumber Melon Soup
According to Taste Atlas and an informal survey of Google searches, cantaloupe remains one of the most popular melons today, however, we have so many other choices! The inspiration for this recipe is a cantaloupe-type melon called a Charentais, however, we used an alternate variety called Hami. As an experienced cook, you already know that all recipes are mere guides. Once you open and taste your melon, adjust for acidity and sweetness as required.
Chilled Cucumber Melon Soup
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I've discovered a new melon called Hamil Hami. It was in the specialty melon section in the grocery store and, although unfamiliar, was sweet-smelling and ripe. I've since learned that it is a Chinese melon and often compared with cantaloupe, although sweeter in taste and more floral in aroma. My palate detected a subtle spice note in the melon, too. I asked Donald to develop this chilled soup recipe, and here is his result. I think it is quite good and hope you enjoy it this summer!
16 oz skinned, seeded melon, such as cantaloupe, hami, Charentais, or other sweet yellow-fleshed choice which has been cut into ½ inch cubes
8 oz skinned and seeded cucumber, trimmed into ½ inch cubes
¼ cup Lucero mild to medium extra virgin olive oil. Arbequina or Ascolano are the top choices. Picual would work, too.
¼ cup Lucero Basil Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Bianco Balsamic Vinegar
¼ cup whole milk yogurt (we like Greek-style)
Sea salt to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Fresh thyme, pulled off the stem, for garnish
Prepare and combine all ingredients, with the exception of the salt and pepper, into a blender and blend until very smooth. [Note: we reserved a bit of melon to use as garnish]
Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper as desired.
Balance flavor by adding more yogurt if you believe the soup needs more acid, and if you believe the soup requires more sweetness, add more Bianco Balsamic Vinegar. Although it is not mentioned in the ingredient listing, you can also add fresh lemon juice for more acidity, too.
Return to the refrigerator to fully chill before serving, and balance flavors once again, if desired.
Garnish each plate or cup of soup with a swirl of yogurt, a few cubes of melon, and a sprinkling of fresh thyme. Serve immediately to enjoy it well chilled.
Yields 4 appetizer-sized servings or 2 larger intermezzo-sized servings.
Melons can vary widely in aroma, flavor, and texture depending on variety, growing conditions, and ripeness, so the key to success in this recipe is selecting a ripe flavorful melon. If you can find a good cantaloupe, you're well on your way to a good result, however, a ripe Hami (which we used) will give you a leg up as both the aroma and flavor are more pronounced than a common cantaloupe. If you grow or can get a Charentais melon; the flavors are known to be even more exquisite as they are highly concentrated and complex, some say redolent of pear and banana, and the aroma is decidedly floral.
I had my first experience with melon soup late August 1990. It was 33 years ago in the Auvergne, and I was the cook's tools buyer for Williams-Sonoma. I was on a mission in Thiers to re-establish business with Mr. Williams' original handmade knife maker and purchase authentic French style slicers and pairing knives to complement our selection of heavy German cook's (aka "chef's") knives, more suitable for chopping. It was my first trip to Europe, and I was both excited and nervous.
That first evening, tired from jet-lag yet keyed up from the 5 hour drive from Paris, we walked through the landscaped grounds of our modest hotel, a "relais du silence", which was a former monastery with on site dining. Sunset was not until after 9 pm, so we had time to freshen up and relax after the drive and enjoy a late meal.
The kitchen started our meal by presenting us with an amuse bouche of chilled Charentais melon soup. To say my spirit was transformed is not an exaggeration. It was so unexpected and delightful the memory remains with me vividly. Much like your first crush, no subsequent experience can quite compare, and each summer when melon comes back into season I think fondly on that night. Happy cooking! - Liz