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Feature Fri Aug 01 2008
I fell in love with cold soup the year I moved to New York City. My husband—then my boyfriend—and I had a favorite cheap Italian restaurant in the East Village that served a cold strawberry soup, made with Champagne and served with basil leaves sprinkled on top.
But after a few years in the East Village and a few dozen bowls of soup, we moved to Brooklyn, and the restaurant closed down. And I forgot about chilled soup. Until I got pregnant, and was walking around New York City swollen with life and sweating like a pig. At that point, I became a forager for chilled soups. I tried cantaloupe and strawberry soups, and, of course, the ubiquitous gazpacho. They satisfied my cravings, but they didn’t make me swoon like the strawberry soup I’d first fallen in love with did.
Every summer I search the Web for cold soup recipes, especially when the temperature spikes—as it’s doing in Chicago at the moment. I’ve made several blenders full of gazpacho; some of them were hits, others hit the sink as soon as I left the room. Only recently did I realize how divided people feel about a soup that isn’t served warm. This year, my annual Google search for recipes brought me to a message board on the blog Serious Eats about cold soups. Some people out there are repulsed by them. Among the pro-chilled soup responses, there’s a recipe for a blueberry soup that sounds similar to the strawberry soup I loved (if you substitute strawberries for blueberries). It’s got wine and lemon, to keep it from being too sweet. Others on the board mention soups from around the world: borscht and chlodnik (cold beet soup); vichyssoise (chilled leek-and-potato soup); Korean buckwheat noodles in a chilled broth; white gazpacho (made with almonds, bread, garlic, vinegar, and oil); and koldskal (a Danish buttermilk soup served with vanilla-scented biscuits).
Food-blogger and soon-to-be-published author Orangette says she, too, has mixed feelings about cold soup. She muses on the subject in a posting about a chilled carrot-ginger soup from Gourmet. The photos of her soup are so pretty; it’s a bright orange, especially against the white bowls she uses. It looks cool, tasty and healthy, like something that will cool the body and fill it with energy. My attempts at re-creating that bright shade of orange in my own kitchen fell flat. The soup has avocado in it, which turned my bright orange a few shades grayer. And, I don’t have a juicer, so my blended carrots were quite a bit chunkier. But it tasted good, even better when sipped rather than eaten with a spoon. The recipe is below. She says the only thing to fuss over is the juice; either buy fresh carrot juice, or juice your own carrots. (Unless you don't have carrot juice on hand, and don't have time to go to the store. In that case, you can boil the carrots and blend them, for a chunkier soup.)
2 medium firm-ripe avocados
3 cups fresh carrot juice
¾ tsp salt
5 tsp fresh lime juice
2 tsp finely grated peeled fresh ginger
A pinch of good-tasting curry powder
Crunchy sea salt or fleur de sel
Quarter the avocados; then pit and peel them.
In a blender, puree 1 avocado with the carrot juice, salt, 4 tsp of the lime juice, and the ginger until very smooth.
Cut the remaining avocado into small cubes, and gently toss with the remaining teaspoon of lime juice, curry powder, and a pinch of sea salt.
Serve the soup with a generous spoonful of the seasoned avocado cubes.
Another of my family’s favorite cold soups is cucumber with yoghurt and dill. It’s so easy, my eight-year-old daughter can make it on her own. We never use a recipe either; just toss some cucumber, yoghurt, dill, garlic, and salt and pepper into the blender. It’s hard to go wrong.
A few summers ago someone recommended avocado soup. I found a recipe for one with shrimp that sounded like something my family would enjoy. It was way too rich; it tasted like heavy cream. But, if a rich, creamy soup sounds good to you, Mark Bittman, the Minimalist from the New York Times, has a video showing how to make avocado-and-shrimp soup—so easy he doesn’t even need to speak.
To satiate my farm-to-table yen, I want to try iced parsley-and-tarragon soup. The recipe is from Perla Meyers’ Seasonal Kitchen, one of my favorite cookbooks. She says you can add any of your garden’s herbs (or your farmers market’s or your CSA’s). It sounds a lot like vichyssoise, which means even though it’s served cold it requires some heat in the making. Here’s the recipe. (I might skip simmering the parsley, for a fresher flavor.)
1 large bunch parsley (preferably the flat-leaf type)
2 tbsp sweet butter
2 large leeks, finely sliced
1 lb new potatoes, peeled and cubed
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground white pepper
2 cups light cream
2 tbsp fresh tarragon, finely chopped
Wash the parsley; remove and discard the coarse stems. Chop the leaves. Reserve 2 tbsp for garnish.
In a large, heavy-bottom casserole melt the butter. Add the leeks and cook over moderate heat until they’re soft but not browned.
Add the potato cubes and the stock. Bring to a boil, and season with salt and pepper. Simmer until the potatoes are soft (about 35 minutes).
Add the chopped parsley and simmer for 10 minutes more.
Puree the soup in a blender. Add the cream and tarragon, season to taste, then chill.
She says the soup might thicken if you use chicken stock, in which case you can add water or more cream.
As with other cold soups, I’m sure the flavor improves if you sip it instead of eating with a spoon. As Orangette notes, “it just feels weird to sip cold liquid from a spoon. Cold liquids, this part of me argues, should be sipped from a frosty glass, or maybe taken through a straw, like a milkshake.” Though parsley doesn’t exactly conjure a milkshake.