Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Top 5 Summer Soups

A friend recently suggested the subject for this post...in Arkansas, in August, the heat produced by braising and stewing just isn't an option (at least not in my barely-air-conditioned apartment). The nice thing about summer soups is that several of them require no cooking at all. Of course, you want to get the most organic, natural produce you can to prepare these, since there won't be any "cooking off" of chemicals. Another reason to have your own garden, or visit the Farmer's Market.

1. Gazpacho

This soup wins, hands-down. Gazpacho is such a customizable soup, I think there's a version everyone will love. It can be chunky or smooth, spicy or mild, tomato-heavy or tomato-free. Traditionally it must contain bread, olive oil, and something acidic. That's it! These days it's synonymous with cold tomato soup. Part of its appeal is its ability to use up vegetables that seem to overrun some gardens this time of year (tomatoes, cucumbers, red bell peppers). But there are many other versions--check here for a ton of recipes and variations.

2. Cucumber Soup

A beautiful, simple, cooling soup that requires no cooking. Very healthy, too, when made with yogurt. This is a great accompaniment to spicy Asian flavors--a nice palate soother. Most recipes call for a basic puree of cucumbers, yogurt, and an herb (mint, parsley, basil, etc.) and add their own individual touches for variety. Fruit, avocado, buttermilk, jalapeno, wasabi...there are all kinds of options.

3. Summer Borscht

Read as: chilled borscht. Borscht, a traditional Russian peasant soup, has two versions. The cold-weather version usually includes stewed beef and cabbage in addition to beets. The warm-weather version is meatless, and spotlights sweet summer beets. It can be chunky or pureed; I love the pureed versions with sour cream...I rarely get a chance to eat bright pink food!

4. Yellow Pepper Soup

This one might not be as well-known, but I love its ability to use an item you can't get as easily in any other season. You can always buy roasted red peppers in a jar...but how often do you get sweet, inexpensive, beautiful yellow peppers? The finished soup is a vivid sunshine yellow with a bright green garnish, and can be served either hot or cold.

Yellow Pepper Soup with Cilantro Puree
(from The All-New Complete Cooking Light Cookbook)

1 teaspoon butter
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped fennel bulb
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/3 cup dry white wine
3 1/4 cups chopped yellow bell pepper
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups chopped peeled Granny Smith apple
1 cup cubed peeled red potato
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves
3 tablespoons chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon mirin (sweet rice wine) (you could also use sake here)
1 teaspoon canola oil
dash of salt

2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
  1. To prepare soup, melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and fennel, and saute 3 minutes. Add curry, ginger, and garlic; saute 1 minute. Stir in white wine; cook 1 minute. Add bell pepper, broth, apple, potato, and salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 20 minutes. Cool.
  2. Place half of soup in a blender; process until smooth. Pour into a bowl. Repeat with remaining soup. Chill at least 2 hours. Stir in lemon juice.
  3. To prepare puree, place peas, cilantro, 3 tablespoons broth, mirin, and canola oil in a blender; process until smooth.
  4. Ladle soup into bowls. Add 3 dollops of puree on top of each serving. Using the tip of a knife, drag and swirl each dollop of puree into a "V" or other shape. Dollop creme fraiche in center of each serving.

Yield: 6 (3/4 cup) servings

5. Fruit Soup

That's a vague title, but I think we must include the fruits of summer. Plums, peaches, melons, cherries, strawberries, blueberries...I could go on. Mostly these are for dessert, but they can work as appetizers, cheese course components, or even drinks. Here's another recipe from Cooking Light that's easy and different. They recommend serving it with an herb cheese (such as Boursin) and crackers.

Strawberry-Champagne Soup

5 cups quartered strawberries

1/4 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

cracked black pepper (optional) (I would definitely include it)

  1. Place strawberries in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with sugar and salt; toss well. Place strawberry mixture in a blender or food processor, and process until smooth. Cover mixture and chill 2 hours.
  2. Stir in champagne. Sprinkle servings with a little black pepper if desired. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 (1 cup) servings


Derek said...

we're gonna make every one of these. on the same day. cold soup day.

Lady Z said...

Mmmmmmmmmm. Cold soup day forever!