These three examples of fruit soup offer a welcome, and decidedly different, addition to dinner. (Karen Schneider photo)

Cold soups are the perfect beginning or ending to those sweet September picnics, barbecues, fancy company dinners on the deck, or just when you’ve become Desperate for Something Different.

Recently, I made three fruit soups in my blender in the course of an hour, poured them into Mason jars and put them into the fridge to chill. When suppertime came round, I tucked them into my trusty picnic basket and wended my way through the woods to my neighbors’ house. They had invited me for supper on the spur of the moment and I was pleased I had something to share. I knew they would never guess what I was bringing.

When I lined the sparkling jewel-colored jars up on their kitchen counter and explained that we were having cold fruit soup to start the meal and perhaps enjoy some for dessert too, my friends, who are both age 96, had completely different reactions.

Jean was delighted and felt the whole idea of chilled fruit soup was thrilling. Her husband, Ken, however, was a bit dubious. He sniffed the melon soup and proclaimed, “I don’t know, Karen. This seems kinda weird.”

But when his wife shrugged her shoulders and said, “All the more for us,” he reconsidered and said, “Wait a minute, I didn’t say I wouldn’t try it.”

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I’m happy to report the soup sampling we bracketed around Jean’s lovely pot roast dinner was a big success.

Saving the sweeter blueberry soup for dessert, I served petite bowls of the other two contenders to my hosts while the roast and veggies stayed warm on the back of the stove. We wanted to give our appetizer its due and not rush, naturally.

We slowly sipped . . .

The watermelon soup went down quite easily and, if I remember right, there was a request for seconds.

When the strawberry soup was ladled into the bowls, it was met with lip-smacking. Then came questions about the wine I had incorporated. And then Ken’s idea to spoon the blueberry soup over vanilla ice cream. (We did not.)

That soup, served all on its own for dessert, was the perfect sweet ending to a lovely late summer day.

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For those among you who are skeptics, you must just try these chilled bowls of deliciousness. Think of what fruits you can use in season or simply stock your favorites in the freezer to haul out as needed.

For the moment, there are plenty of beautiful melons of all sorts in season and you can find blueberries and local late-summer strawberry varieties at the farmers’ markets; or if you are really on the ball, perhaps you have some of your own to pick.

Frozen or supermarket blueberries and strawberries will do just fine too, but fresh berries — which generally means local — will give the soup a deeper flavor. Adjust the sugar accordingly as you may need less if you are using sweetened frozen berries and more if you are using California or Florida strawberries from the market or those big blueberries from New Jersey.

These refreshing late-summer treats will make you forget the fact that autumn is just around the corner. Trust me.

Writer and editor Karen Schneider has been a regular contributor to the Lewiston Sun Journal for over 20 years. Contact her at [email protected] with your ideas and comments.

Colorful ripe melons are the perfect ingredients for a cool late-summer soup. (Karen Schneider photo)

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Melon soup

Serves 4

4 cups seedless watermelon, diced into 1/2-inch chunks

Juice of 1 lime

2 large fresh mint leaves, julienned, plus 4 more for garnish

2 tablespoons honey

1/4 cup dry red wine or cranberry juice

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1/2 cup cantaloupe, diced into 1/2- inch chunks

1/2 cup honeydew melon, diced into 1/2- inch chunks

In a food processor or blender, place 3 cups of the watermelon chunks, lime juice, julienned mint leaves and honey and puree until smooth. Pour into a large container. Stir in wine and add remaining diced watermelon, diced cantaloupe and honeydew melon. Cover and chill for several hours. To serve, ladle into small bowls or glassware and garnish with mint leaves.

Strawberry wine soup

Serves 4

2 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, stemmed and sliced (set aside 4 more berries for garnish)

6 tablespoons sugar

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1 cup water

1 tablespoon corn starch

1 tablespoon cold water

1 cup dry white wine

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

Sour cream for topping (optional)

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In a saucepan over medium heat, combine strawberries, sugar and water. Simmer uncovered until berries are soft, 5-10 minutes. In a small cup, blend corn starch with cold water. Increase heat to medium-high. Add cornstarch mixture to berries and stir until mixture bubbles and is clear. Cool slightly then puree in a food processor or blender. Place in a container and add wine and lemon zest. Cover and chill for several hours. Serve in small bowls garnished with strawberries and topped with sour cream, if desired.

Blueberry soup

Serves 4

2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

1 1/2 cups water

1/4 cup sugar

1 cinnamon stick

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1/2-inch by 2-inch strip lemon zest

3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt (optional)

Cinnamon for garnish (optional)

In a saucepan over high heat, combine all ingredients except yogurt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Cool slightly. Remove cinnamon stick and lemon peel.

Transfer to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Cover and chill for several hours. Top with a bit of yogurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon before serving in small bowls.


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