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Cool watermelon soup with thai chili and lime

August 25, 2010|By LYNNE ROSSETTO KASPER

Dear Lynne: The pot we make tomato sauce in is enameled cast iron. Enamel is flaking off the bottom. Can we still use the pot if we scrub it out? -- Lacy and Family

Dear Lacy and Family: You don't want enamel flaking into your tomatoes. It's just not healthy. Parting will be sweet sorrow, but the pot's given its all and it is time for it to go.

Replace the pot with one lined with stainless steel, which is indestructible and, like your enameled pot, doesn't react with the acids in tomatoes. (Cast iron and aluminum do.)

The ideal pot should have a stainless-steel interior with thick jacket of aluminum on its bottom and sides. Don't buy one with only a disc of aluminum on the bottom, or you'll get scorching.

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Dear Lynne: I want to make watermelon soup. How do you do it? -- Katie in Bend

Dear Katie: There are a lot of ways to do this. Essentially, fruit soups are purees, sometimes with chunks of the fruit. You contrast the sweetness with lemon or lime, some kind of spice, and maybe something hot like chili. You are going after a balance. One approach is a takeoff on gazpacho. Take a gazpacho recipe but substitute watermelon for most of the tomato puree, with a ratio of two parts to one. Then finish the puree with raw corn kernels shucked from the cob, plus minced onion, cucumber and some sour cream.

Or, try this fresh, bright approach inspired by Thai flavors.

COOL WATERMELON SOUP WITH THAI CHILI AND LIME



Serves 2 to 4 as a first course.

Make this about an hour before serving, and chill it. Serve cool but not ice-cold.

2-1/2 to 2-3/4 pounds sweet watermelon flesh, seeds removed
1-1/2 cups ice cubes
Generous pinch of salt
4 or 5 grinds of black pepper
2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste

Juice of 2 large limes (about 1/2 cup), or to taste
Grated zest of 1/2 large lime
1 to 2 Thai chilies, minced, with seeds removed (for less heat, use jalapenos)
10 or 12 fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 medium red onion, cut into 1/8-inch dice
1 cup diced watermelon (cut into 1/4-inch cubes)

Cut the melon into chunks, removing any stray seeds. Trim away the rind. Put chunks in a food processor; adding the ice, salt, pepper, sugar and lime juice. Puree. Stir in grated zest. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Ladle the cool soup into bowls and top each serving with chilies, basil, onion and watermelon cubes.

Variation: Tall Watermelon-Vodka Cooler. Convert the soup into cocktails by chilling it. Fill tall glasses with ice. To each glass, add a little chili, basil and 1 ounce of vodka or gin. Pour in the melon puree and stir. Finish it with a skew of watermelon chunks and a wedge of lime. Easier still, combine all ingredients in a pitcher with ice cubes and let folks help themselves.

Dear Lynne: I grew up eating okra gumbo and stew in Louisiana. Now my 18-year-old daughter and I have a community garden plot (okra does well here in Austin) and I want to do an okra challenge cook-off, an entire meal of okra dishes. But we're stumped by dessert. Got any ideas? -- Nancy in Austin

Dear Nancy: I've got an idea, but first we need full disclosure. I can't stand okra, except fried (then again, you can take anything fried).

That said, how about okra tempura fritters dusted with powdered sugar and served with a sweet-tart lemon syrup dipping sauce?

A Japanese tempura batter recipe will give you the fritter basics. The syrup works like this.

SWEET-TART LEMON DIPPING SYRUP

Makes almost 1 cup (doubles easily). The syrup will keep a couple of weeks if refrigerated.

1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
Pinch of salt
Grated rind of 1/4 lemon
1/4 to 1/3 cup lemon juice

In a small, nonreactive saucepan over medium heat, simmer together the sugar, water, salt and lemon rind just until the sugar crystals have melted and the syrup is clear, about 5 minutes. Cool and stir in lemon juice to taste. Chill until ready to use. Bring to room temperature before serving.

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