Kitchen duty in the summer has its advantages, especially in the wide selection of fresh produce at its peak.
Summer cooking also has its downside: When it’s hot out, heating up the kitchen by turning on the oven or firing
up all the burners isn’t an appealing prospect.
Chilled soups take the best part of summer cooking, the flavor-packed fresh vegetables, and avoids the unpleasant part of heating up the kitchen to make a light entree or refreshing starter course with little or no actual cooking.
Whether the soup mixes numerous vegetables or spotlights one variety of produce at its best, a cool soup celebrates freshness.
While chilled summer soups can be easy to put together, the hardest part might be to convince fans of hot soup to at least try the cold summer variation.
That may be easier than it used to be since more and more people are drinking fruit and vegetable smoothies and the proliferation of juice bars like Jamba Juice and Oasis Juice Bar have led many more to occasionally sip their vegetables in liquid form. There’s even a website, ww.rebootwithjoe.com, that will find all juice bars in a ZIP code or city.
To bridge the gap between soup and healthy vegetable juice concoctions, some restaurants and caterers now offer “soup shooters,” small servings of cold soup that can be enjoyed without the formality of a table and spoon. Soup in a shot glass also is a good way to coax those who think soup has to be steaming hot into trying it, since it’s just a small amount.
Those reluctant holdouts might also be swayed by hearing that cold soup was once reserved for royalty. Cold soup became a French delicacy by accident, according to food historians, when King Louis XIV was served soup, meant to be hot, that had cooled during the long trek from his castle’s kitchen to the dining room. The Sun King pronounced it good — much to the relief, no doubt, of the servants and cooks — and decreed that cold soup would be served at the royal court.
Keeping food cold is no longer reserved for royalty, and most cold soups actually improve their flavor if they are refrigerated overnight, giving the flavors time to meld and intensify. That’s not necessary for Gazpacho, the no-cook Spanish soup crammed with summer vegetables.
Anyone who has ever dipped into the bowl of salsa at their favorite Mexican restaurant and wished they could eat the whole bowl straight from a spoon will have their wish granted in the form of Gazpacho.
Fresh tomatoes and cucumbers are the basic ingredients, brightened with a little vinegar or lemon juice. From there, the additions range from fruity to spicy.
Cookbook author Mark Bittman adds vodka and horseradish to make “Bloody Mary Gazpacho.” There also are versions that substitute watermelon or cantaloupe for the tomatoes.
For those overcoming their reluctance to try cold soup, however, fruit is likely one more thing that defies their expectation of what soup should be, so it might be best to leave the fruit versions to those who have been won over to the summery pleasure of cold soup.
1 pound tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
2 or 3 slices bread, a day or two old, crusts removed, torn into small pieces
1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 cup water
Salt and black pepper to taste
8 anchovy fillets, optional
Combine the tomatoes, cucumber, bread, oil, vinegar and garlic and water in the container of a blender; process until smooth. If the gazpacho seems too thick, thin with additional water.
Taste and add salt and black pepper as necessary. Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve within a couple of hours, garnished with the anchovies and a drizzle of olive oil.
(SOURCE: Recipe from “How to Cook Everything,” by Mark Bittman)
Cucumber-yogurt Soup with Pepperoncini
1 pound cucumbers, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped plus cucumber spears for serving
10 small pepperoncinis; 4 stemmed, seeded and chopped plus 1⁄4 cup of liquid from the jar
1⁄4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped dill
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 cup buttermilk
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cumin
In a blender, purée the chopped cucumbers with the chopped pepperoncini, the pickling liquid, 2 tablespoons of the dill, the yogurt and buttermilk until very smooth.
Stir in the cumin and the remaining dill and season with salt. Refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.
Ladle the soup into six bowls. Serve each bowl with a whole pepperoncini and cucumber spears on the side.
(SOURCE: Recipe by Marcia Keisel)
Chilled Carrot Soup
3 (11⁄2 pounds) large leeks, white and light-green parts trimmed
1 medium clove garlic, minced
2 small (1 pound) Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
4 (1⁄2 pound) carrots, peeled
21⁄2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups water
11⁄2 teaspoons salt
1⁄8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups low-fat milk
Olive-oil cooking spray
Wash the leeks thoroughly and coarsely chop them.
Spray the bottom of a small stockpot with the olive-oil spray and place it over low heat. Add the leeks and garlic; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are translucent, about 10 minutes.
Cut the potatoes into small chunks and add to the leeks. Slice three carrots into 1⁄2-inch-thick rounds; add the carrots, stock, water, salt and pepper to the stockpot.
Cover partially, raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the vegetables are very soft, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Put the vegetables in a blender, stir in the milk and purée until smooth.
Let the soup stand until cool; refrigerate until cold, preferably overnight.
To serve, divide soup among six bowls and garnish with carrot curls.
(SOURCE: Recipe adapted from “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone,” by Deborah Madison)