Monday, August 04, 2014

Chilled Cantaloupe Soup with Poached Shrimp

The heat continues! Temperate Portland has been in the 90s for weeks. Weeks! Yes, there are hotter places in the world. But for us, this is far from our usual no-need-for-air-conditioning state of affairs. I realize that even a functional planet has cycles and oscillations and all that, but it's hard not to feel like we're on a march toward some sweaty inevitable crash course with the sun. Or perhaps I'm being dramatic? I can't tell. It's hard to think straight, what with all this heat.

So yes, the world does seem to be on a path that ends in fire. But, on the bright side, I've rediscovered cold soups.

Now this may seem a strange combination. But it's not too far from gazpacho, a similarly sweet-savory blend of cooling summer produce. Also, it's dead simple, one of those dishes whose flavor and wow factor far exceeds the effort involved. Basically it looks like this: cantaloupe, cucumber, and a touch of onion get tossed in the blender, seasoned and smoothed with olive oil and vinegar. Then poached shrimp are tossed on top, and the whole thing is finished with a sprinkling of olive oil and chives. What more do you need? And, more importantly, on these tropical days, what more do you have the energy for?

Chilled Cantaloupe Soup with Poached Shrimp

adapted from A Day That is Dessert (thanks!)
yields ~4 cups, as small appetizer-y servings

1 small cantaloupe melon (or one large one, with about 1/3 reserved for snacking), ripe and fragrant
1 small cucumber or 1/2 large cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped
1-2 tablespoons chopped onion
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
salt and white pepper
~12 small or medium-sized shrimp (either standard or salad shrimp will work — I used a small bag of frozen spot prawns)
a small handful of chives, minced

To make the soup: Place the melon, cucumber, the smaller amount of onion, olive oil, and vinegar in a blender, along with a splash of water. Process until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste, and adjust seasonings as needed, adding remaining onion if desired. Process again to blend, and add additional water if needed to create a smooth soup. Set aside in the refrigerator to chill while you prepare the shrimp.

To poach the shrimp: Bring a small pot of heavily salted water to a boil (I also like to throw in a pinch of sugar as well). When it's boiling, add the shrimp, then turn off the heat and cover the pot. Let sit until the shrimp turn opaque and pink, ~5 minutes (it will be more or less depending upon the size). While they're sitting, prepare a bowl of ice water, and when they're ready, drain the shrimp, and slip them in the ice water to stop the cooking. Peel the shrimp from their shells. If the shrimp are large, you can chop them, but if they're smaller you can leave them whole.

To serve, pour out a small cup of soup, and top with a portion of shrimp. Scatter on a drizzle of olive oil and some chives, and serve.


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