Recipes Regurgitated: Cooled Response to Chilled Melon Soup
Deciding what I want to eat every day usually starts with figuring out how I feel. Am I a little chilly, stuffy, under the weather, bored, ambitious? I think food should do more than just fill your stomach--it should meet other needs as well, so that if you're feeling cold and a little sad (midwinter blues), the warmth and comfort of a giant bowl of chili is perfect, or, if you're feeling energetic and ambitious, a complex recipe like chicken tikka masala is a good meal to reward your efforts. And since yesterday was hot and muggy, thunderstorms booming in the distance, all I wanted was something sweet and refreshing.
Years ago I'd tried and enjoyed a chilled melon soup that tasted both amazingly fresh and deliciously cool. With a hint of sweetness, it was a smooth soup that tasted almost a little sherbet-y, but with more sustenance. A Google search brought up a couple recipes, and I settled on one from the Food Network's Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh. My spirits high, my mouth parched, my tastebuds curious as to what cantaloupe would taste like, I embarked on my quest for fruity-cool soup. By the end of the night, my sink, blend, and clothes were a mess and I was thanking my lucky stars that I had some leftover rice and chicken in the fridge.
But enough of my endless patter (right?), let's break this thang down. Recipes get 1 to 5 surprised saltshakers () based on the following 5 categories:
Shopping ease -- which includes convenience of finding items and cost
Preparation -- for it to be a regular weekday recipe, it should require no more than half an hour of actual work. Also did the preparation require special tools? How many knives did I go through? Big clean-up afterward?
Recipe readability -- The New York Times is notorious for dropping made-up words like "balouquet" into a recipe as though they expect me to know what it means. I hate this in life, but I hate it even more when I need to understand something so I don't accidentally poison myself. Did I have to wikipedia the recipe? That is bad.
Health Factor -- while most people might disagree, I really am trying to get into this "good for you" thing. Could I brag to my mom about this recipe? Would I be forced to lie when I go home?
Taste -- arguably the most important aspect of a recipe, how'd it turn out? Did it make my tastebuds rejoice? Did I make happy moaning noises that made my roommate uncomfortable? Did I dream about it? Were the dreams scary? All things to consider.
Now, let's get on to the evaluations! (full recipe printed below)
CHILLED MELON SOUP
Food Network says: for a "semi-formal celebration..."
I say: ...of your terrible taste in soup
Shopping Ease -- exceptionally easy. I had everything at home except for the yogurt and the cantaloupe (also the optional spring of mint). Altogether, the ingredients cost about $2--hard to beat. The only problem is that I spent about 5 minutes staring at the cantaloupes, trying to figure out if they were ripe while that bit from Jerry Seinfeld about bowling melons played in my head.
Preparation -- this probably should have been easy, but I had a ridiculously hard time with it. Basically the recipe just asks you to cut up the cantaloupe and mix it and the other ingredients in with a food processor. I first used my blender, which did nada, and then brought out my top-of-the-line mixer. That sent melon juice and chunks of melon all over my kitchen, and I had to wrap the whole thing in seran wrap to keep everything inside (I was flicking off melon chunks from my clothes and arms all night). Granted, with better equipment things probably would have gone smoother, but I've never had a messier experience.
Recipe Readability -- fine enough, although the recipe didn't specify that I should have cut off the green parts of the cantaloupe and only used the orange parts (is that common knowledge? Am I revealing my surprising lack of cantaloupe knowledge?). The result was I ended up with mostly-mashed melons with little floating green chunks. Looovely.
Health Factor -- absurdly high, which is maybe also why I thought it tasted terrible (more on that, later). While the Food Network didn't have any details on this recipe, a health food website listed a similar recipe (all the same basic ingredients) having 106 calories per serving. Since it's pretty much just cantaloupe, with a dash of honey and yogurt, it's unsurprising that it is super good for you
Taste -- no. No. No. So bad. I am a picky eater, of course, and am not a huge fan of cantaloupe in general, but this was just terrible. I doubt I made the recipe wrong, and unless my cantaloupe was particularly terrible, I can't imagine mine was very far off from what the recipe intended. Where I was imagining something smooth and sweet, the soup was actually unappealingly thick, and so overwhelmingly cantaloupe-flavored that it was almost bitter. The recipe also called for dashes of nutmeg and cayenne pepper, which I would do away with next time. I'm fond of nutmeg in heavier dishes--like lasagna or thick winter egg nogs--not sweet and light fruit-based soup. And the cayenne pepper was disastrously terrible, adding an awful flavor. I tried, truly, to eat as much as I could but only got about 2 spoonfuls before I dumped the whole thing down the sink (Even the sink was like "Oohh, this is bad.").
Final tally: 16/25
Strong showings from the health and shopping categories aren't enough to pull this sucker from the "no good" pile. While my search for a melon-based soup isn't over (maybe I'll try some sherbet in the next one?), this recipe is done-zo.
CHILLED MELON SOUP
1 cantaloupe, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
1 cup plain yogurt
3/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
Generous pinch cayenne
Fresh mint, for garnish
Put half of the cantaloupe into a blender along with the yogurt and blend until smooth.
Add the remaining cantaloupe and blend again until smooth.
Pour into a large mixing bowl.
Add the orange juice, honey, nutmeg, salt and cayenne and blend until well mixed.
Pour into a soup tureen and chill at least 1 hour before serving.
Garnish with fresh mint sprigs before setting out.