Thursday, August 28, 2014
The sun is blazing. The sweat is dripping. The air feels as if it is sticking to your skin.
Hey, how about a nice big bowl of soup?
No, seriously. Soup is good food. Especially in the summer, when the soup is cold.
Summer soup is different from winter soup. Winter soup is heavy, substantial, serious. It sticks to your ribs. But summer soup is light, frivolous, festive. It cools you down from the inside out. And if it is the right soup, it can even be a little bit sweet and no one will complain.
If you are like me, when you think about cold summertime soups, your first thought is: gazpacho.
(Actually, if you are exactly like me and you are thinking about cold summertime soups, your very first thought is of the episode of “All in the Family” in which Archie Bunker is served vichyssoise for the first time. He blows on a spoonful to cool it down, and when he puts it in his mouth he gets a surprised look on his face that is absolutely priceless. But more on vichyssoise later.)
Gazpacho, of course, is the (generally) tomato-based cold soup that originated in the Andalusia region of Spain. Everyone who makes it makes it differently, but the essentials are the same — ripe tomatoes, sherry vinegar whenever possible and a bit of bread that has been soaked in water and then squeezed for added texture, all pureed together.
That’s not the way I make it. I call my version Farmers Market Gazpacho because it is basically a vegetable soup that makes full use of the bounty of the season. Also, I don’t use bread. I usually serve it thin with plenty of nice chunks of veggies crammed into it. Occasionally I will puree it, but while it tastes delicious, it does leave you with a soup that is visually unappealing.
Two other bits of culinary apostasy: I begin with canned tomato juice. Why not? It’s good, it’s tomatoey. And I do add real tomatoes, so it isn’t as if I am entirely cheating, right?
The other thing I do is I add chicken stock. It may not be traditional, and it definitely is not vegetarian, but it adds a certain depth missing in the Andalusian version.
Another thing I like to do in the summer is take cold-weather soups and, by virtue of chilling them, turn them into hot-weather soups. This is a simple trick, but it works remarkably well for a whole host of unlikely soups.
I have a grilled corn soup with leeks that I love to make in the fall, but it is (very nearly) just as good in the summer when it is served cold. And spiced carrot soups, which are such an essential safeguard against the snow, are every bit as good a shield against the hot sun.
Most curried or spiced soups have cream in them to temper the heat from the spice, and that cream works just as well to cool you down on a hot day. The Ginger and Carrot Soup I made here, which comes from Health.com, has the added benefit of using yogurt instead of the higher-fat cream.
Now, about that vichyssoise that had Archie Bunker so confounded. It’s simple, it’s pure - it’s one of the all-time great French dishes that isn’t actually French.
That’s right. Vichyssoise (I just learned this, and I’m dying to share it) was invented in 1917 at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in New York City. Chef Louis Diat liked to create a new hot-weather recipe every summer, and that year he thought about the leek-and-potato soup his mother used to serve when he was growing up in Bourbon-l’Archambault, about 40 miles from the town of Vichy. When she served leftover soup, she would thin it out with cream.
It is that idea, leek-and-potato soup mixed with cream and chilled, that is the essence of vichyssoise.
Because it was created in America, I decided to make a distinctly American version of it by adding corn to the potatoes and leeks or onions. This idea came from Jacques Pepin who, like Diat, is a French chef living in America. That makes it a French-American version of a French-American dish. And it is terrific.
And for a bit of sweetness, I went to a truly spectacular soup created by Emeril Lagasse, of all people. Say what you will about the man, but the culinaroscenti agree that he can flat-out cook.
Or in the case of his Summer Fruit Soup, not cook. Actually, a little bit of cooking is involved, just a few minutes to dissolve the sugar and bring the most out of the strawberries, the pineapple, the mango and the lemon, lime and orange peels.
It’s an abundance of fruit, plus sugar. It sounds too sweet - you could serve it for dessert, but I’d make it a light and refreshing appetizer. But the sweetness is cleverly balanced by a tablespoon of minced ginger, giving the soup just the bite it needs to keep it from being cloying.
Or, what the heck. Serve it last. If you’re having three chilled soups for dinner, you may as well have one last one for dessert.
Yield: About 4 quarts
1 quart tomato juice
1 quart chicken stock
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
6 medium tomatoes, diced
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 medium sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 green or red pepper, diced
½ bulb fennel, sliced thin, optional
2 tablespoons fresh basil or 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped, optional
½ avocado, sliced, for garnish, optional
Combine all ingredients except the optional avocado in a large bowl and refrigerate at least 2 hours. When serving, float optional avocado slices on top of each bowl.
Recipe by Mary Anne Pikrone
Yield: 4 servings
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon corn oil
1 medium onion, sliced (about 1¾ cups)
8 ounces potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
4 large ears corn, husked and kernels cut off (3½ cups)
1 teaspoon salt
2½ cups water
1½ cups half-and-half
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives or tarragon
1. Heat the butter and oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and saute for 2 minutes. Mix in the potatoes, corn kernels, salt and water and bring to a boil, then cover, reduce the heat to low, and boil gently for 20 minutes.
2. Use an immersion blender, food processor or blender to puree. For a soup with a smoother, finer texture, push it through a fine sieve set over a bowl. Stir in the half-and-half and chives or tarragon. Refrigerate until chilled before serving.
Recipe from “Essential Pepin,” by Jacques Pepin
Yield: 8 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 clove garlic, sliced
2 pounds carrots, sliced
6 cups vegetable broth
Juice of 1 lime, plus lime wedges for garnish, optional
1 cup plain yogurt (not nonfat)
Salt and pepper
1. Warm oil in a pot over medium heat. Add onion; saute until softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Add ginger and garlic; saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.
2. Raise heat to medium-high; stir in carrots. Pour broth into pot, cover and bring to a simmer. Remove cover, reduce heat to medium to maintain a simmer and cook until carrots are very tender, about 25 minutes. Remove soup from heat and let cool slightly.
3. Working in batches, puree soup in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl, cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours.
4. Just before serving, stir in lime juice and yogurt. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve chilled, garnished with lime wedges if desired.
SUMMER FRUIT SOUP
Yield: 8 servings
1 tablespoon minced ginger
3 cups chopped strawberries, divided
2 cups chopped pineapple, divided
1½ cups chopped mango, divided
2 pieces lemon peel
2 pieces lime peel
2 pieces orange peel
4 cups water
1½ cups sugar
¼ cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 cup blueberries
Mint sprigs, for garnish
1. Saute the ginger in a medium pot over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes (no oil is necessary). Add 2 cups strawberries, 1 cup pineapple, 3/4 cup mango and the lemon, lime and orange peels; cook for another 2 minutes. Add water, sugar and fruit juices and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Simmer for 5 minutes and remove from heat.
2. Allow mixture to cool slightly and then transfer in batches to a blender or food processor. Puree and strain into a large bowl. Add remaining 1 cup chopped strawberries, 1 cup chopped pineapple, 3/4 cup chopped mango and blueberries. Stir to combine, cover and refrigerate until well chilled. Serve with mint sprigs for garnish.
Recipe by Emeril Lagasse, via Food Network