From Fruit To Soup

Refreshing concoctions make use of fragrant seasonal fare

August 11, 1999|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN FOOD EDITOR

Cool, refreshing fruit soups are making quite a splash this summer.

Restaurants offer them on menus. Hosts ladle them out to guests. Even hot-broth lovers down these thirst-quenching concoctions when temperatures soar.

"They're like a fruit shake," says Ruth Glick of Columbia, co-author of "Skinny Soups" (Surrey Books, 1997) who likes to serve the icy purees in delicate china mugs. "They're fun to make. There's nothing difficult about them. It's a nice way to use seasonal fruit."

This month's proliferation of fragrant, ripe fruits, such as honeydews, cantaloupes, peaches, strawberries and blueberries, easily is transformed into tempting tureens of brightly hued soup.

Most fruits need only a whir in a blender or food processor and the addition of simple ingredients such as honey and citrus juices to be turned into lush elixirs. They can be served as appetizers, desserts and even palate cleansers, as the acclaimed Inn at Little Washington in Virginia does between courses with its peach soup.

While cold soups, like gazpacho and vichyssoise, have been around for a while, fruit soups -- which are popular in France -- are gaining acceptance on American tables.

"Fruit soups are sort of newer to people," says Cindy Wolf, chef- owner of Charleston in the East Inner Harbor area. "People are so fat-conscious. It's making [fruit soups] very popular." Wolf offers a delectable chilled peach soup at her restaurant.

In "Splendid Soups" (Bantam Books, 1993), James Peterson agrees. "Fruit soups served as dessert are light alternatives to rich pastries and sweets," he writes. "A fruit soup can be a simple 'broth,' a medley of smooth purees swirled together in colorful combinations, or a chunky fruit salad bathed in coconut milk."

Chef Jerry Pellegrino at Corks in Federal Hill often serves fruit soup as a warm-weather dessert. When Julia Child -- the grand dame of the culinary world -- visited his restaurant recently, he wooed her with a flavorful melange of blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and blueberries surrounding a scoop of freshly made mango sorbet and liberally doused with champagne.

"It's a unique interpretation," Pellegrino says. "But it's simple and fresh. It's nice to have after dinner."

He isn't a fan of fruit soups as a first course, though.

"Starting out with something sweet is not to my taste," Pellegrino says. "Everything else tastes too bitter after that."

But, "The International Soup Book" (HarperCollins, 1998), edited by Susan R. Friedland, advocates a fruity beginning. "Starting a meal with a cool fruit soup is an untraditional but highly satisfactory prelude to a spicy main dinner," says the book, which features a rich Melon Soup with cantaloupes, honey, lemon and orange juices, and port as an appealing starter.

Barbara Kafka in "Soup, a Way of Life" (Artisan, 1998) says her own father would disapprove of starting a meal with a fruit soup, so she includes cold soups in her book that can be presented as either a first course or dessert.

To satisfy a sweet tooth, Kafka suggests doubling the sugar in her Sour Cherry Soup and adding a dollop of ice cream or sorbet to make it a finishing dish.

But regardless of when these soups are served, Wolf says, "They are a great thing to eat cold in the summertime."

Melon Soup

Serves 4

3 ripe cantaloupes

2 tablespoons honey

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

1/4 cup port

Cut the cantaloupes in half, remove and discard the seeds, then scoop out the pulp, being careful not to tear the peel. Set the cantaloupe shells aside.

Roughly chop the cantaloupe pulp and puree in a blender with the honey, lemon juice, orange juice and port.

Chill well before serving. Use the cantaloupe shells as soup bowls.

-- From "The International Soup Book" (HarperCollins, 1998), edited by Susan R. Friedland

Sour Cherry Soup

Makes 5 cups, serves 5-6 as first course or dessert

1 pound sour cherries

1/2 cup superfine sugar (double amount if serving as dessert)

1/2 cup red-wine vinegar

1 cup half-and-half

1 cup sour cream

1 cup ice water

1 teaspoon kosher salt

sour cream, optional (for dessert, substitute dollop of ice cream or sorbet)

ground cinnamon

Reserve 6 whole cherries. Pass the remaining cherries through a food mill (see note) fitted with the medium disk into a metal bowl.

Whisk the remaining ingredients except the sour cream and ground cinnamon into the cherry juice. Refrigerate until cold.

Pour the soup into bowls and top each serving with a dollop of sour cream (if using for first course), one of the reserved cherries and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Note: The food mill is used to get rid of the skins and pits, so a food processor is not a good substitute.

-- From "Soup, a Way of Life" (Artisan, 1998) by Barbara Kafka

Strawberry-Pear Soup

Serves 4-5

4 cups hulled, coarsely sliced strawberries

1/2 cup water

1 cup juice from juice-packed canned pear halves

4 juice-packed canned pear halves

2 teaspoons lemon juice, preferable fresh

1/4 cup granulated sugar, or more to taste

strawberry slices for garnish, optional

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