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Cool Food for Warm Weather

Vichyssoise; find the recipe below

Food For Thought: Chill Out

With warm weather upon us, the last thing you likely want is to heat your kitchen. A cold soup is a perfect recipe for this; cold soups are delicious, refreshing, and nutritious. Some cold soups do require cooking, but others can be prepared without even a glance at the stove.

Creativity can run wild when making any soup, and this is especially true for cold soup. But I often find that a variation of a recipe that is tried and true—one that has stood the test of time—seems most comforting. Two of my favorites are vichyssoise and gazpacho. Both have humble origins; one was shaped out of necessity and using the ingredients of its local terroir, and the other, oddly enough, came into existence out of a chef’s longing for his mother’s cooking.

Vichyssoise was first served at the Ritz Carlton in New York City around 1917. The chef was Louis Diat, a protege of Auguste Escoffier. A Frenchman by birth, he missed the food and ingredients of his native country, but mostly he missed his mother’s good cooking.

Watermelon soup; find the recipe below

He penned a few books, and one of them, French Cooking for Americans, is subtitled La Cuisine de Ma Mère—my mother’s cooking—and he prefaced his leek and potato soup recipe with this: “One of my earliest food memories is of my mother’s good leek and potato soup made with plump, tender leeks I myself pulled from our garden.” In this sentiment he created an updated, more refined version of his mother’s leek and potato soup by pureeing and chilling it. He originally dubbed the soup Crème Bonne Femme (beautiful woman cream soup), but it later became known as Crème Vichyssoise, named after the city of Vichy where he was born.

Gazpacho, on the other hand, is a recipe that has been around in various forms for a very long time, but the recipe’s journey is convoluted. Possibly Moorish or Arab in origin, it has existed in Spain for more than 1,000 years), but prior to the 16th century it didn’t contain tomatoes and wasn’t red. Tomatoes are a New World ingredient; they didn’t find their way into European cooking until the 1500s. It most likely began as a vegetable, garlic, and herb soup that was thickened with breadcrumbs and ground almonds. Gazpacho really is one of the truly archaic recipes of the Western world, which has survived as a type of liquid food made from vegetables and stale bread; for food historians, it’s sort of an edible archeological dig. The word soup is derived from the Middle English, sop, or sup, referring to a stale piece of bread on to which broth is poured to give a slight meal some substance. (This is also the origin of the word supper.) The Spanish word for soup, of course, is sopa.

These are just a couple, albeit classical, examples of cold soup, but a cold soup can be made from just about any ingredient. Nearly any ripe fruit pureed with wine and maybe a bit of mint or basil makes an excellent cold soup. So does cucumbers with yogurt, garlic, and chilies. Your only restraints are the limits of your imagination.


Makes about 5 cups

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 bunch leeks (white parts only), cut crosswise
2 cups chicken broth
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 cup heavy cream

Heat the butter in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium-high heat. When it begins to bubble, add the sliced and washed leeks. Sauté the leeks for abut 2 minutes, or until they are tender and translucent. Add the chicken stock, salt, and pepper, and bring the stock to a boil, then lower it to a simmer. Cook the soup for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are easily mashed. Transfer the soup to a blender or food processor, and process it until it is smooth. Return the soup to the pot and bring it again to a simmer. Stir in the cream. This soup may be served hot or cold.

Carrot “Vichyssoise” with Ginger and Yogurt

Makes about 8 cups

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, diced
2 slices ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 tablespoon honey
1-1/2 pounds peeled, diced carrots
4 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt

Heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a heavy soup pot. Add the onion, ginger, and garlic; sauté for a few minutes. Add the curry and honey; sauté 2 minutes. Add the carrots, broth, and salt. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower it to a simmer. Cook the soup for about 45 minutes, or until the carrots are very soft. Remove the soup from the heat and stir in the yogurt. Transfer the soup, in batches, to a blender or food processor and purée until very smooth. Serve hot, room temperature, or chilled.

Thai-Spiced Watermelon Soup with Riesling

Makes about 6 cups

1 cup Riesling wine
3 slices ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 serrano chilies, seeds removed, minced
1 stalk lemongrass, leaves removed, minced
2 tablespoons sugar
6 leaves fresh basil, coarsely chopped
6 cups diced seedless watermelon, rind removed (about 2 lbs)
the juice of two limes

Combine the wine, ginger, garlic, chilies, lemongrass, and sugar in a small pot. Bring the wine to a boil then lower it to a simmer; cook the seasonings for 1 minute. Remove the pot from the heat, stir in the basil, and allow the seasonings to steep for about 10 minutes while the liquid cools. When the liquid is at room temperature strain it, pressing as much moisture from the seasonings. (Reserve the liquid; discard the seasonings.) Combine the liquid with the watermelon and lime juice in a blender and process until smooth. Serve chilled or at room temperature.


Makes about 5 cups

2 large tomatoes, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 English cucumber, diced
2 slices bread, crusts removed, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 jalapeno peppers, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and pulse until desired consistency. Let stand 10 minutes; served chilled or at room temperature. Optional garnishes include but are not limited to diced raw onion, hard-cooked egg, parsley, and olives.


Gazpacho Blanco

Makes about 6 cups

1/2 cup sliced almonds
4 slices bread, crusts removed, diced
2 cups yogurt
2 cloves garlic
2 jalapeno chilies, seeds removed and minced
1 pound green seedless grapes (about 3 cups)
1 English cucumber, peeled, seeds removed, diced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Spread the almonds on a small baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes in a moderate oven. Transfer the toasted almonds with the remaining ingredients to a bowl. Mix well and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender and process until smooth. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

More Artvoice Summer Guide 2012:
Intro: Pond Swimming • Events: Summer Musts, Festivals, Garden Walks, and Tours
Enjoy the Waterfront: WNY From the WaterWheels on the Water
Music: Summer Spotify MixtapeFree Summer Concert Guide
Summer Eats: Cool Food for Warm WeatherThree Wines for Your Summer Oases

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