Last June, we traveled to New York for my sister Lindi’s wedding. A shock of paralyzingly hot air overwhelmed us as we stepped out of our taxi; we hurried into her building. Something came up at work that caused her to arrive home late, so her doorman let us in. In our stupor of travel exhaustion, Alexi and I slumped into pieces of furniture nearest air conditioning vents. We intermittently dozed, read what we’d started on the plane, and took in her views of the city as we drank our way through most of her chilled bottles of water. The boys and my niece, who had just arrived from her dad’s house in New Jersey, picked up right where they left off at our last visit, shutting themselves into her room. As soon as Lindi got home, we had to hurry out the door to a dinner reservation. We walked to a restaurant located in Central Park. The evening was sultry, humid, sticky. The park is my favorite place to be in the city, but I barely took any of it in. Despite the suffocating heat, Lindi and I were ecstatic to be together, and hardly knew where to begin; we each had so much to say.
The meal was a fantastic way to begin our stay. We sat watching people in rowboats on the lake, luxuriating in the air-conditioning and the slight breeze that reached us in the open-air restaurant. I felt like I had stepped into an impressionist painting. We adults drank ice-cold champagne and talked nonstop as the light faded; the boys and my niece sat side-by-side, texting each other with our phones.
The East Coast does hot weather food well, and our meal that night was no exception. We had low expectations given the restaurant’s touristy nature, and were happy to be wrong. I started with a chilled cantaloupe soup with shrimp. It was outstanding. I also had a plate of crab cakes, which were equally impressive. After drinking and eating our fill, we reluctantly left our table, carrying the meal with us as a memory. We walked in the still-stifling, 90-something degree heat back through the park, now illuminated by lightning bugs.
At the beginning of this week, temperatures here were in the high eighties - a far cry from New York heat, but hot for us. Poolside at the boys’ swim lessons at 8:30am, I needed to pop open a sun umbrella. I began to crave that cooling cantaloupe-shrimp soup from last summer, so I experimented, and came up with my own version of it.
Chilled Cantaloupe-Shrimp Soup
It’s important to make this when you can get really ripe, delicious cantaloupe – the soup depends upon it.
1 large, ripe cantaloupe, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
½ of a medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons chopped red onion
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons good quality olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/3 cup water
freshly ground black pepper
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
chives, for garnish
In a blender or food processor, pureé the cantaloupe, cucumber, red onion, salt, and water. Then, with the motor running, slowly add the olive oil, then the red wine vinegar. Taste, then add more salt and vinegar as needed. Add a few grinds of freshly ground pepper.
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the shrimp when the skillet is warm, and cook them until just pink, about three minutes. Chop the shrimp, and then stir them into the soup.
Divide the soup into bowls, and top with fresh chives.
Yield: about 6 servings