Savory Fruit Soups
I recently attended a lovely lunch party for a dear friend who, at nearly 88, has decided to emigrate to Panama. Carol is one of my life heroes, a wise, kind, thoughtful, smart, engaged, active woman with connections to multiple community groups. Like so many others, I am beyond sad to lose her weekly companionship but thrilled by her example. How courageous to uproot herself after decades in this community and transplant herself into a distant country that doesn’t even have mail service. Actually, that may be part of the attraction; one reason Carol is making this move is that she too often feels overwhelmed, angry, horrified and sad about the state of our country. Panama, she has found, is a lot more peaceful, especially since it’s more challenging to follow our news there.
She also has family there and a circle of friends (of course), since she’s visited a number of times. This year, her winter visit lasted longer than usual and when she returned, she announced cheerfully that she had bought a small house with an attached “casita” for guests or caregivers, should the need arise. Her new community is made up of a number of similar units, a development model that could be extremely successful here as well. Given the lack of affordable housing all across the country, modest, single story homes with built-in ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit) would sell like trendy doughnuts.
About That Lunch Party
Our lunch party was both cheerful and tearful, with old friends sharing marvelous Carol stories. There was plenty of laughter, much of which reminded me that old sorrows can seem pretty amusing in retrospect. That’s especially true when the imminent loss of a dear friend puts other issues into fresh perspective. For one thing, we all heard stories that were new to us, revealing how complex and fascinating a person Carol is. Indeed, I think most folks are, and often wonder how little of them we may really know. At one point, I suggested that we should start a class called Write Your Own Obit. I’ve noticed that too many single people have nobody to remember or tell their stories when it’s too late to discover more. I’d love to spend a few hours with others, writing our own stories and listening to them as well. We could even do a real version and an imaginary one, just for fun and contrast…
Anyway, at the lunch, we were fed a fabulous watermelon gazpacho that tasted like the essence of summer. Our kind hostess shared the recipe, which I tweaked to reflect my own preferences (see below). As always, I hope you may do the same, for recipes are really just guidelines, meant to be adjusted to your own taste. By all means, substitute and fiddle, because that’s how great food is born!
Cold Soups For Hot Weather
These chilled soups are exceptionally refreshing in hot weather, when hot, heavy foods can seem repellent. They are most easily and quickly made with an immersion or stick blender, which reduces washing up, but if you don’t have one, a food processor or even a regular blender will work just as well (but with more of that fussy washing up). All can be served immediately at room temperature or chilled, and like any soup, they’ll deepen in flavor as the ingredients mingle, so an overnight chilling is all to the good.
Sweet-hot and savory, this luscious watermelon soup is utterly delicious on a sultry day. Seasoning to taste is important, as some like it sweeter and others prefer to turn up the smoky heat. Flat Italian parsley can be substituted for the cilantro with very pleasing results.
6 cups peeled, chopped watermelon with juices (1 medium)
1 large English cucumber, finely chopped (peeled and seeded if not an English type)
2 cups finely chopped sweet peppers
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup minced sweet basil (such as Genovese)
1/2 cup stemmed cilantro (reserve half for garnish
1 tablespoon avocado oil or fruity olive oil
1 lime, juiced, rind grated
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon smoked hot paprika
Combine first seven ingredients in a large bowl, stir to blend and season to taste with lime juice, salt and paprika. Let stand 20 minutes, then adjust seasoning to taste. Remove 4 cups of the mixture, then use an immersion blender to puree the rest. Return the reserved 4 cups to the bowl, cover and refrigerate soup until ready to serve. Serve chilled or at room temperature, garnished with reserved cilantro. Serves 4-6.
A Melon Marvel
Ripe, fragrant cantaloupe blends beautifully with shallots, fresh ginger, and a touch of curry, though you can use any kind of flavorful melon. Make this simple soup as mild or fiery as you prefer, adding just a little maple syrup to boost the flavor contrasts if the cantaloupe isn’t particularly sweet.
Curried Cantaloupe Soup
6 cups peeled, seeded and chopped cantaloupe (1 medium)
2 cups chopped Persian cucumbers
1 large lemon, juiced, rind grated
1 inch fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon curry powder or garam masala
2 teaspoons minced shallots
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon maple syrup (optional, as needed)
1/4 cup crumbled soft goat cheese
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
Combine cantaloupe, cucumbers, half the lemon juice and rind, half the ginger, the curry powder, shallots, and salt in a bowl and puree with an immersion blender. Adjust lemon juice, ginger, and other seasonings, adding maple syrup as needed to bloom the flavor. Serve chilled or at room temperature, garnished with goat cheese and green onions. Serves 4.