One of the nice things about writing a food blog, it turns out, is that you meet other people who like food. And in this networked world, you soon meet their friends, and friends-of-friends, and so it goes until you find yourself, as I often do, surrounded by people who love food, eating good food, talking about food. Sometimes those people even cook for you.
On one such recent occasion, a new friend made this soup. Oh, this soup.
Make this soup in secret, if you can. Hide the evidence before you serve it and watch people’s reactions. To a one, each taster will slurp a sip, stop, and tip her head to the side. Narrow his eyes at the bowl. Taste another spoonful. And then start guessing: “Tomato?” “Carrot?” “I love this. What is it?”
It’s sweet. It’s spicy. It’s cool. It’s refreshing. It’s a little addictive. It’s watermelon. The complex, intense flavors here will make this soup the star of the meal, so keep the rest simple. We served it with grilled salmon and rice, a lemony garlic-ginger sauce, and a green salad. And also, of course, cucumber mint sorbet for dessert.
Chilled Watermelon Soup with Thai Flavors (adapted from Gourmet): Puree 6 c. watermelon chunks in a blender after removing any black seeds (the little white ones you’ll strain out later); transfer puree to a bowl. Finely chop the bottom 6″ of a stalk of lemongrass (discard the outermost leaf or two first), a shallot, a garlic clove, and a thumb-size piece of peeled ginger.
Saute the lemongrass, shallot, garlic, and ginger in oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add 1/3 of the watermelon puree to the pot and continue cooking, stirring often, for 5 more minutes. Scrape this mixture from the pot back into your blender and add a minced serrano chile (seeds and all), 3/4 tsp. salt, and 2 Tb. lime juice. Blend until smooth, then add the remaining watermelon puree and pulse a few more times to combine. Taste and adjust flavors with more lime, chile, or salt if desired.
Strain the soup through a fine-meshed strainer, stirring and pressing on the solids to extract as much juice as possible. Refrigerate the soup until thoroughly chilled, at least two hours.
Just before serving, chop an avocado and sprinkle it with plenty of lime juice and salt. Chop a good handful of cilantro. Serve the chilled soup with the avocado, cilantro, and more lime wedges.