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June 1, 2012

Mint-Melon Soup-- Modern Israeli Cooking Recipe Adaptation #2


In my last post, I mentioned the cookbook and travelogue The Foods of Israel Today. (Read the last article HERE)  I'd like to share another successful adaptation of a recipe for a cold melon soup I made!

The original recipe is shared with author Joan Nathan by Jerusalem Theater art director Maya Bailey, and it has both Greek and Israeli versions, with the use of an anise-infused grape-based liqueur called ouzo (Greek) or arrack (Israeli).  Of course, I have access to neither.

The rest of the recipe for this cold soup includes cantaloupe or honeydew melon, sour cream or yogurt, sugar, milk and a mint garnish.

My adaptation ends up being a perfect base for other variations: smoothie, blended with iced green tea, and sorbet.

Making the base:

I coarsely chopped a whole honeydew melon and blended in the food processor with plain yogurt, and a handful of fresh mint, as I wanted mint to take on a central flavor in the dish since I wouldn't be using the anise-flavored liqueur.  To this I added the juice of about half a lime, freshly squeezed. I added a splash of milk, just enough to smooth the texture.  It was plenty sweet from the melon and yogurt, so I did not add any sugar.

I used the food processor for the first couple handfuls of melon with two tablespoons of yogurt to help the blender do its job. My husband got a bit impatient and used the immersion (a.k.a wand or stick) blender to process up the rest of it, but then complained about the foamy consistency caused by all the air bubbles he whipped in there with the immersion blender.  I didn't mind the texture, but that's something to consider when choosing how to process the melon.

In total, I used about one cup of yogurt.  This is double the amount from the original recipe but I used only a fraction of the milk, so I guess it's your preference if you'd like it thinner (more milk) or slightly thicker (more yogurt).  Plus in the original recipe, yogurt was the substitution with sour cream being the preferred ingredient, and I was going for something less tart.

The dish should be refrigerated for a few hours or overnight to let the flavors mingle and to achieve a pleasant temperature.

No-dairy idea:  You could try omitting the yogurt and milk, and use some almond or soy milk instead.  This would preserve the creaminess, without the lactose.  Of course plain yogurt or Greek yogurt has those great probiotics that make this recipe even healthier.  There are non-dairy yogurt alternatives available with the same probiotics but without the dairy.  Ricera (rice-milk based), Whole & Soy Co., Wild Woods Organics, and  Turtle Mountain (coconut milk-based) all make varieties of dairy-free yogurt with probiotics.

Serving Ideas
This is a wonderfully refreshing cold soup, which is more like a dessert soup or a snack than an entree.  It's great when you want a little something sweet and cold.  I served with a lime wedge and a mint sprig for an extra kick.

I discovered that it works in several other permeations too!

Blended with ice, it makes for a great smoothie, or add iced green tea for a less milky but equally refreshing version.

For the iced tea, I prefer about a third of the chilled melon-soup base to 2/3 glass of iced green tea.  I usually make my iced green tea by the cup, because the delicate flavors of green tea do not do well in the fridge for a long time.  Make a cup of hot green tea with two bags instead of one, then swirl around with ice until cold.  You can re-use the double tea bags for another cup, but you don't want to over-steep since green tea bitters easily.  Sweeten, if desired, before you add the ice so the sugar melts properly.  I like cane sugar (like Sugar in the Raw) or agave syrup for this blend.

It also makes a delicious sorbet, and looks very attractive with a pale sea foam green color garnished with a sprig of mint.  To make an "ice box" sorbet, simply interrupt it during freezing about every half-hour or so to stir.  I prefer to do this in a zip-lock bag so I can just squish it up with my fingers.  Continue to freeze and squish until it reaches sorbet consistency.

My husband and I actually preferred it in smoothie form or blended with tea than as just a cold soup (but again, that has to do with Chad not liking the airy texture after he used the immersion blender), and of course, my 4 yr old daughter prefers it in sorbet form (because she thinks she's getting ice cream!).

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