Chilled Melon and White Nectarine Soup with Red Chili Ricotta

When it is so hot that no food really appeals, fruit soups will always awaken a flagging appetite—especially if there are a few bottles of Muscat or Alsatian Riesling in an ice bucket nearby.

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe honeydew melon, rind and white cut off, cubed (about 2 cups)
  • 6 large ripe white nectarines or peaches
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1–2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom powder
  • 1 cup Riesling
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Edible flowers, like nasturtiums

Method

Mix the ricotta, 1 tablespoon of the milk, the chili, cardamom, and a little salt to taste. Let the mixture sit for an hour. If the ricotta is too stiff (it should be like ice cream just beginning to soften) then mix in some more milk.

Bring a pot of water to the boil and prepare an ice bath.

Put the nectarines or peaches in the boiling water for 10 seconds, then lift them out with a slotted spoon and put them in the ice bath.

The moment the fruit is cool enough to handle, peel, pit, and chop it. Reserve the ice bath. Put the nectarine pieces in a nonreactive steel saucepan and add ¼ cup water, half the wine, and the lemon juice. Add the melon, cover, and bring to the boil. Cook 10 to 15 minutes, or until the nectarines are tender enough to be pureed. While the fruit is cooking, place a bowl in the ice bath and add more ice if necessary. Immediately, put the fruit in the iced bowl, stirring the mixture constantly until it is cold. Puree the fruit mixture and keep chilled.

Taste the fruit puree for salt, add the remaining wine, and serve it in chilled, shallow soup plates with a dollop of the spiced ricotta in the center and the flowers sprinkled on top.

Variations

I like the combinations of watermelon and raspberry (heat together 5 minutes, sieve, chill, and serve with basil cream); also plum and raspberry; or strawberry with red currants. And if you ever see cloudberries, or brook cloudberries, run, don’t walk, to the cash register with all of them. They are the noblest of all berries, and are found in British Columbia and northern Europe. And for a greater visual impact with this soup, use two or three kinds of melons, pureed separately and put separately on the plate to produce two or three colors.

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