The apartment we rent in Paris has plenty of space for two. There’s a lovely airy living room, a separate dining area, and even a little outdoor deck, but the kitchen—my favorite room in any home—is tiny. Although it’s well equipped, I still have to do some serious
strategic planning when having a dinner party like the one coming up. There’s only one oven (“petit” would be the best way to describe it), and counter space is almost nonexistent, but by choosing menus that can be prepared ahead, “tout va bien!”
For my summer dinner, the first course will be a chilled melon and cucumber soup, followed by a casserole of boneless chicken breasts scented lightly with curry and topped with a creamy porcini mushroom sauce. A platter of cheeses and a dessert purchased at one of the pâtisseries in our neighborhood will round out the meal.
I sampled the delicious chilled soup that will be our starter this spring at The Cambridge Tea House in Columbus, Ohio. I was so taken with its delectable refreshing taste that I begged the owner, Mary Boesch, to share the recipe. When the directions arrived, I was stunned to learn that this dish requires no actual cooking, just a simple assembly. The creation of Chef Sarah Jackson Wilson, the soup is prepared with diced cantaloupe and cucumber that are pureed in a food processor, then enhanced with lemon juice, cider vinegar, and a bit of heat from Sriracha, that Thai counterpart to Tabasco sauce.
Keep this soup in mind for your July 4th celebrations. A single recipe serves 6, but it can be doubled easily. You can ladle the potage into bowls, but if you’re having a crowd think of serving it instead in small glasses or cups as an appetizer. It’s delicious on either side of the Atlantic!
Chilled Melon and Cucumber Soup
One large ripe cantaloupe (about 4 pounds
One large English cucumber (10 to 12 ounces)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup ice water
1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more if needed
1 teaspoon Sriracha plus more if needed (see market note)
Fresh mint sprigs for garnish
1. Quarter the cantaloupe, and then scrape out and discard the seeds. Remove the skin and cut the quarters into 1-inch chunks to yield 6 cups. Save any extra for another use. Peel the cucumber, halve it lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and cut into 1-inch chunks to yield 2 cups.
2. Whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, and ice water in a medium bowl until blended. Puree 1/3 of the cantaloupe, 1/3 of the cucumber, and 1/3 of the vinegar mixture in a food processor for about 30 seconds and transfer to a large nonreactive bowl. Mixture will be slightly chunky, not completely smooth. Repeat 2 more times with remaining cantaloupe, cucumber, and vinegar mixture.
3. Season the soup with 1 teaspoon each salt and Spiracha. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours or even better overnight. Taste the chilled soup, and season with more salt and Spiracha if needed; chilled soups often need extra seasoning.
4. Ladle into six bowls and garnish each with a mint sprig. Serves 6.
Market note: Sriracha is a Thai sauce composed of chilies, vinegar, garlic, and salt. It is available in some grocery stores and in Asian markets, usually in a squeeze bottle. It’s quite hot so a little goes a long way.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2013
Print This Recipe