Cool Yogurt Soup with Nuts

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 4 hours, largely unattended

There is nothing easier than turning a couple cups of yogurt, some herbs, and a handful of cut-up vegetables—or fruit, for that matter—into a quick chilled soup, but this is a little different: The produce marinates in a little citrus juice or dressing before being topped with flavor-infused yogurt and crunchy nuts. Now you can enjoy each component distinctly, together in the same bowl.

The basic recipe calls for melon, a close relative of the cucumber, but everything changes when you simply swap the nuts, mint, melon, curry, and citrus juice with other fruits, vegetables, acids, or seasonings; see the variations.

1/4 cup shelled roasted pistachios or toasted pumpkin seeds

2 cups yogurt

1/4 cup milk

1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves, plus sprigs for garnish

Salt

1 small melon, like honeydew, cantaloupe, or casaba, peeled, seeded, and grated, shredded, julienned, or finely chopped (about 2 cups)

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange or lime juice

1 teaspoon chili powder (to make your own see, Chili Powder) or a pinch cayenne

Freshly ground black pepper

01 Use the flat side of a wide knife or cleaver or a small food processor to break the pistachios or pumpkin seeds into large pieces.

02 Vigorously stir the yogurt, milk, and chopped mint together in a bowl for a minute or two, until you smell the mint. Stir in a sprinkle of salt and push the mixture through a strainer. Discard the mint and refrigerate the yogurt.

03 In another bowl, combine the melon, juice, and chili powder. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally (the fruit will release liquid, which will become part of the soup). To serve, taste both the yogurt and the fruit mixtures and adjust the seasoning if necessary, then spoon some of the melon into chilled soup bowls; top with the yogurt and a sprinkling of pistachios.

Variations

Yogurt Soup with Cucumber. A bit more savory: Keep the pistachios and mint, but use shredded cucumber and lemon juice instead of the melon and orange or lime juice. Omit the chili powder or cayenne and use 1 teaspoon Fragrant Curry Powder or prepared curry powder.

Yogurt Soup with Tomato. Smacking of summer: Replace the pistachios with toasted pine nuts. Instead of the mint, use fresh basil leaves. Peel, seed, and finely chop 4 medium tomatoes, saving as much juice as possible. You should have about 2 cups to replace the melon. Toss the tomatoes with orange juice or a crisp white wine. Replace the chili powder or cayenne with fresh thyme leaves.

Yogurt Soup with Radish. More bite: Instead of the pistachios, use toasted hazelnuts and replace the mint with fresh parsley. Coarsely chop 2 cups radishes and toss with 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar and 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil instead of the citrus juice. Omit the chili powder or cayenne.

Yogurt Soup with Fresh Peas. Lovely and delicious: Instead of the pistachios, use cashews and replace the mint with 1/4 cup fresh tarragon leaves. Blanch and cool 2 cups fresh peas and toss with 1 teaspoon sugar, 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, and 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar or other mild vinegar. Omit the chili powder or cayenne.

Yogurt Soup with Strawberry. Not quite dessert, but wonderful in a brunch setting: Replace the pistachios with toasted almonds. Use 2 cups sliced strawberries and balsamic vinegar instead of the melon and citrus. Omit the chili powder or cayenne and add a few extra grinds of black pepper.

Yogurt Soup with Pineapple. A fine starter for grilled Asian food: Use toasted coconut instead of the nuts. Shred 2 cups fresh pineapple, saving as much juice as possible. Substitute 1 teaspoon Fragrant Curry Powder or prepared curry powder for the chili powder or cayenne.