IMBB#14: Orange You Hungry for Some Chilled Citrus-Melon Soup
This is how egos are made and popped, my friends, for this coming entry in the IMBB contest would take no prizes for taste. Presentation, yes. It's a beautiful soup, the mouthfeel is exquisite, and even the scent as you prepare it is intoxicating - like a walk on a warm day in the orange groves of southern California, a slightly chilled breeze in your hair, the sun on your face.
The taste, however, is lackluster. I'm afraid I'll have to blame it on my own fool-hardiness; buying summer produce too early in the season is always a recipe for disaster. Look at the mealy tomato salads, tasteless strawberry shortcakes, and tough, chewy lobsters you get when you don't buy in the height of spring or summer, during peak seasons.
I tried, dear reader... Lord knows I tried. I marched proudly into my market, went through every cantaloupe/muskmelon with an exacting eye for quality (and in the process making more than one little old woman sigh loudly as I went around her for a potentially winning specimen). I followed my clues... looked for a smooth, even, slightly golden rind - no slick spots, and a slight dent at the 'pick-point'. And yea, I found two melons I felt up to the task of IMBB.
I should have known that my luscious looking melon, with its soft orange blush and its heady fragrance, wouldn't come to full flavor yet. That I needed to wait until June or July to really get the bang for my sweet, silky bite.
Alas. It had me fooled until the bitter end (or bland, as the case may be). I cut up my melons into nice, smallish chunks, my hands covered in sweet, sticky nectar and smelling like spring. The first melon went into the blender, at which point I got out a couple of ripe oranges and juiced them until I had about 3/4 C. juice. That went in, then the juice of a lime. Finally, to add to the sweetness of the fruit and to cut the acid just slightly, a tablespoon of raw honey (CameraMan's contribution. He loves different varietals of honey. Brattleboro's Raw Honey from Vermont. ..very nice). I spun the mixture into a froth in the blender, removed some to allow for more space, then added the remaining melon chunks which I'd cut up while the first batch mixed.
After bringing it all to a smooth consistency, I poured the mix into a large bowl and whisked in 6 oz. of whole milk vanilla yogurt, plus 2 T. of fat-free plain yogurt (which is what I had). When it was evenly combined, I grated some dried ginger over the top, whisked again, and then into the fridge for a couple of hours.
Behold, the lovely ocher smoothness, like sand on a beach when the sky is painfully blue and the clouds piercingly white. I garnished it with a bit of the orange peel and a small dollop of plain yogurt so that the tartness might contrast the sweet of the soup. And it would have... if there was some sweet to be offset. Just a bit too bland.
We were able to salvage it - a little salt brought out the flavours that were there admirably. But I think that the key to this dish (in addition to the salt) is to wait until the fruit is really ready to show its potential. She's a fickle diva, our muskmelon, and she won't reveal herself until she's good and ready.
I don't know about you, but for a real dish, I'm willing to wait.
Chilled Cantaloupe Soup
2 large cantaloupe (muskmelon), cut into chunks
3/4 C. fresh orange juice (if you use store bought, pick one with no added sugar)
1 lime, juiced
1 T. honey
8 oz. whole-milk vanilla yogurt
1 tsp. freshly grated ginger
1/2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
Directions: Cut one cantaloupe into evenly sized chunks. Add to blender with orange juice, lime juice, and honey. Blend until smooth. Cut second cantaloupe into chunks, then add to mixture and blend until smooth.
Pour mixture into a large mixing bowl. Whisk in 8 oz. yogurt until well blended. Add ginger and salt; whisk again until completely mixed.
Chill for 2 hours. Serve garnished with mint, citrus peel, or even fresh raspberries. Go nuts!