By David Tanis

New York Times News Service

Chilled Watermelon Soup

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

7 C diced watermelon, cut into 1-in cubes

Salt and pepper

Pinch of cayenne

1 TBS red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar

4 TBS fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving

2 C diced honeydew melon or cantaloupe, cut into 1-in cubes

2 C diced cucumber, cut into 1-in cubes

2 TBS extra-virgin olive oil

2 TBS snipped chives

Handful of small basil leaves

Handful of small mint leaves

Pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)

Pinch of flaky salt such as Maldon or fleur de sel (optional)

Put 5 cups of diced watermelon in a food processor or blender and blitz to a purée. Strain purée through a fine-meshed sieve into a bowl. You should have about 4 cups purée. Season with salt and pepper and cayenne, 1 tablespoon vinegar and 2 tablespoons lime juice. Taste and adjust seasoning. Chill bowl on ice or refrigerate.

To serve, place remaining diced watermelon, honeydew melon and cucumber in a small mixing bowl. Toss with a little salt and pepper, 2 tablespoons lime juice and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Divide mixture evenly into chilled soup bowls.

Ladle watermelon purée into each bowl. Sprinkle with chives, basil and mint. Add a sprinkle of crushed red pepper and flaky salt if desired. Pass lime wedges separately.

My earliest watermelon memories have all taken place in or near water, I realized the other day.

At summer camp in northern Wisconsin, there was watermelon cut in thick half-moon slices, which we ate sitting on the boat dock, spitting the seeds as far as we could, or swallowing some. The grown-ups said leaves would sprout out of our ears, but, of course, that never happened.

I ate my childhood watermelon plain, unaware of alternatives. As an adult, though, I nearly always seek a salty component. In Mexico, I learned to eat it with hot red chili and with salt and lime, too. There was no turning back. Watermelon salad with sharp feta cheese and black olives was also alluring. Watermelon rind pickles beckoned, sweet, salty and cider-vinegary.

Just as other melons are paired with prosciutto, salt or a salty element is the perfect complement to watermelon’s sweetness. As with tomatoes, a splash of olive oil, a little acidity or some chopped onion are all welcome.

For the recent heat wave, I wanted to make a simple gazpacholike cold watermelon soup. In my mind’s eye, there would be two steps. A mix of watermelon, honeydew and cucumber, seasoned well with salt and pepper and dressed with olive oil and lime juice, would go into the bowl. A ladle of fresh watermelon purée would follow, along with a shower of chives, mint and basil. It would be elegant in its simplicity. In reality, the first version was, well, bland.

I discovered that the watermelon puree could handle a fair amount of seasoning. More salt, a touch more hot pepper, a little red wine vinegar and more lime, veering almost toward Bloody Mary territory, makes the soup much more refreshing. Another squeeze of lime at the table couldn’t hurt.

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