A soup that will surely delight as much as it surprises.
The mystery of this soup continues long after the mystery of my last CSA mystery post. And this is certainly the kind of adventure I envisioned with the series. So when presented with a vibrant yellow melon, the size of a child’s football, during my previous CSA share, I knew I had the subject of my next adventure. One little melon probably wasn’t going to cut what I imagined, so I traded in my tomatoes to Lauren at Roots & Shoots‘ CSA pickup and grabbed another one and asked in the process “What kind of melon is this?” She wasn’t sure, she said, which really only heightened the adventure for me. Perfect. I would learn when I picked up my next share a few weeks later, however, that it was a “canary melon,” clearly named for its skin … not for the inside which kind of resembles a honey dew melon with a hue of yellow that quietly permeates the fruit.
The destiny for this pair of melons was to become a soup — a chilled, summer soup, specifically.
I really don’t know where these ideas come from exactly, I’ll admit. I suspect I see things on menus, scan them quickly in a magazine, flit past them on a TV screen, or simply concoct them in my imagination as an amalgam of influences. But wherever the source, the idea seemed plausible and I played around with the notion in my head for a few weeks as I thought about techniques and ingredients to pull it together.
What emerged was something incredibly unique. Try to explain the taste of a banana or cheese to someone whose never tasted them. It had the texture in many ways of a squash soup, even the sweetness of a squash or sweet potato soup … but certainly sweeter and definitely ‘different.’ The cooking process I used also deepened the sugars a bit, ever so slightly caramelizing them, for a richness that made it even tougher to discern the ingredients.
What is remarkable about this soup, however, is that apart from the flavours I instilled in it — and the coulis, which I’ll come back to shortly — this is 100% melon. No added sugar, thickeners, water, stock or anything. The soup is entirely made from the melon which I deconstructed in different ways to produce it.
Ultimately, it is a melon cooked in its own juices that is thickened with its own fibre and served with its own meat.
The goal was to showcase the melon — but I wanted to nevertheless bring in some other subtle flavours for balance. So in the cooking process, I add a few sprigs of fresh cilantro, to add some herbaceousness and a bit of freshness to keep the floralness of the melon somewhat in check. And in the days leading up to the soup making, my mind landed on mint — something to work with the sweetness. I imagined something like the way mint works in a mojito — but I didn’t want this to taste just like a dessert, either, so there was one more ingredient that was essential: chile. This was done with the intention to bring a hint of pungency and a tinge of heat to balance the soup. Together, I used these to produce a ‘coulis’ which traditionally is a thickened sauce made from puréed fruits or vegetables … so making it from herbs seemed like an interesting experiment. The final ingredient was the addition of some organic Greek yogurt to further balance the soup by introducing a bit of ‘acidity’ into the mix (more than creaminess).
Both the coulis and the yogurt were added to the soup using a squeeze bottle — so if an artful presentation isn’t your goal, simply use a spoon to arrange it in the bowl.
And finally, for texture and substance, I used a small melon baller to harvest a quarter of the melon separately. I placed these in the bowl before laddling the chilled soup over the pieces, and, voila, a summer/early-fall soup was born.
Trust me, keep an open mind here and amaze both yourself and your guests with a soup that will both keep them guessing but which they can’t stop eating.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 60 minutes
Servings: 4-6 as starter
Canary Melon Soup with Mint Coulis
- 3-4 lbs (1.5kg) canary melon
→ substitute honey dew plus, optionally, a few scoops of cantaloupe
- 3 sprigs, roots attached, of cilantro
- 1/4 cup organic Greek yogurt (2% or higher)
- 1 cup (250mL) packed mint leaves, stems removed
- 2 tablespoons (30mL) lime juice, freshly squeezed
- 1/2 jalapeño, seeds removed
→ add more or less to taste, depending on heat of particular chile
- 3 tablespoons (45mL) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1-2 tablespoons (30mL) mint ‘tea’ (reserved from blanching mint)
- 1 tablespoon (15mL) honey or agave syrup
- To begin, cut the melon in half and remove both the seeds and a generous amount of flesh from around the seed ‘pocket’ and place the seeds and flesh in a wire-mess sieve.
Using your fingers or the back of a spoon, work the melon and seeds around the sieve forcing all the juice out into a medium-sized pot. When you’re done, all that should remain in the sieve are the seeds and a tiny amount of stringy melon fibre.
- Discard the seeds and in the same sieve, scoop out the flesh from one of the melon halves and, in batches, use your fingers (or spoon) to force the melon through the sieve.
→ Don’t discard the skin.
Repeat until you’ve ‘juiced’ the whole half and all that remains is about a tablespoon of fibre.
Scrape with spoon underside of sieve (don’t lose this valuable puree) and discard the fibre. Your pot should now have a few cups of ‘liquid’ melon inside it.
This will be your stock used for poaching the soup.
- Now, using a small melon baller, scoop out the fruit from one of the halves of melon. You should end up with roughly a cup or more of melon balls.
→ Don’t discard the skin.
- Next, you’re going to remove the ‘meat’ or fruit from the remaining two halves of melon … plus the residual meat that is on the skins from the above steps. Simply cut the halves (skins) into strips that are about 1½-inches (3-cm) wide and, using a sharp knife, ‘fillet’ out the fruit from the skin. The point is: don’t waste any of the melon.
Roughly chop, cube the melon into chunks …
…and add it to the melon stock.
Add the 3 springs of cilantro now and cover in the melon.
Bring soup to boil. Cover, and let simmer for 15 minutes. Remove cilantro and let cool.
- Meanwhile, place a medium saucepan of water onto to boil. Wash the mint and remove the leaves from the stems …
… and cut the jalapeño in half and remove seeds. And prepare a small bowl of iced water.
Once the water comes to a boil, toss in the mint and the jalapeño. After 20 seconds, remove the mint and place it in the ice water to arrest the cooking. You’re just softening it here. Leave the jalapeño to boil for another 90 seconds or so, then remove it and add it to the ice water.
→ Reserve the boiling water which is now ‘mint tea.’
Drain the water and ice and squeeze the water from the mint. Finely chiffonade the mint now and add it to a small food processor or blender. Coarse chop the jalapeño and add most of it to the mint as well — reserve some of the chile if you’re concerned about heat (remember: you can always add more but you can’t take it out). Add the lime juice, salt, and olive oil and blend you have a smooth puree. If too thick, add a tablespoon or two of the reserved ‘mint tea.’ Taste for ‘heat’ and add more chile if desired.
Pour it into a dish or squeeze bottle and add honey/agave syrup to taste until the natural sweetness of the mint comes out. Set aside.
- Clean out the food processor now and add the poached melon and soup. Pulse and blend just long enough to puree all the melon and create a smooth soup.
→ Do NOT over-process. The fibre gives the soup texture.
- You’re now ready to assemble and serve the soup. Your only decision is how ‘cool’ do you want to serve, either luke warm or chilled. If chilled, place the blender in the fridge for 20-30 minutes (or longer) and serve when ready. If warm, the soup is likely ready. Place a few melon balls in the bottom of each bowl and layer the soup over top. Garnish with a teaspoon or two of Greek yogurt, a similar amount of the mint coulis, and a sprig of mint.
Wine Pairing: Gewürztraminer … or chile mint tea (the water used above) with a dash of honey or sugar.