Cool summer soups
Even if cooking is involved, these dishes will chill out your guests
EACH TIME I've served chilled fruit soups as first courses at dinner parties, guests returning for seconds and thirds have always drained the tureen. The same is true for classic vichyssoise, once called "the swankiest of soups," which impresses guests who have not discovered how simple this make-ahead dish is to prepare.
An easy way to classify cold soups is by their preparation, cooked or uncooked, and the recipes that follow are good examples of each. The vichyssoise and tomato soup are cooked in advance, then chilled; the papaya and avocado soups are uncooked.
Another way to classify cold soups is by preparation time, and these run from ridiculously simple to just a little bit less simple in these recipes.
SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE
Turn chilled soups into summer party appetizers by serving them in small aperitif glasses. No spoons needed -- your guests can just sip them down. CLICK FOR LARGE
I hesitate to include this first recipe, since I've never really made the tomato soup myself. However, it has saved the day several times when unexpected guests have dropped by. Rather than take up their offer of lunch out, I can offer to let them relax on my lanai.
"Oh, we don't want you to fuss!" they say. Little do they know that I'm truly honest when I promise, "I won't fuss a bit." They acquiesce, I make a five-minute run to the Safeway deli, grab a container or two of their fresh-made Tuscan Tomato and Basil Bisque soup, a variety of sandwiches, and, except for cutting, arranging and pouring, that's it.
So here is "my" recipe: Pour a 25-ounce container of soup into small, pretty bowls. Run cold water over a few large, fully cooked, shelled, tails-off shrimp (I keep a package from Costco in my freezer). When shrimp are thawed, chop them coarsely and sprinkle onto the center of the bowls. If you have chives in your herb garden, garnish with those, as well. Serves 4.
I REALLY DO enjoy cooking for friends, and when I find a recipe that's simple and delicious, I refine it until I've made that dish my own. This soup is especially beautiful, and my guests, even the men who look at cold soups with suspicion, always return for more.
For this and other chilled soups, you'll probably need to follow what I call my "Potato Salad Rule." You probably know what I mean. You're positive that you've seasoned your salad perfectly, but after it's been refrigerated, you have to add more seasonings, especially salt. That must be why so many recipes for cold soups specify "season to taste," or "adjust seasonings before serving."
Chilled Papaya Soup
3 ripe papayas, seeded, peeled, cut in chunks
3/4 cup unflavored yogurt
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup honey
1 to 1-1/4 cup ginger ale, lemon-lime soda or champagne
3 thin slices of lime, cut in quarters, and/or mint leaves, for garnish
Place first four ingredients in a blender or food processor and purée until smooth. Pour into bowl and refrigerate, covered, until well-chilled (up to 6 hours).
When ready to serve, stir in enough soda or champagne to thin to desired consistency. Pour into a soup tureen or individual bowls; garnish with lime slices and/or mint leaves. Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving: 150 calories, 1 g total fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 25 mg sodium, 37 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 29 g sugar, 2 g protein.
IF YOU'VE ever ordered vichyssoise in a restaurant and received thinned-down mashed potatoes in a bowl nestled in a larger bowl of crushed ice, you've probably paid dearly for yesterday's mashed potatoes on ice. The real dish is a rich, velvety, white potato-leek soup perfect for warm Hawaii days.
Maybe you've avoided ordering or cooking vichyssoise altogether because it sounds "fancy-schmancy," but you'll find that's a myth as well. How fancy can something made with tubers and bulbs be?
Or perhaps it's the name, which is easier to mispronounce than, say, "Portuguese bean." If so, just remember that the French do pronounce the final "s" in words where they're followed by an "e" (so it's "VEE-shee-swahz" -- you'll remember if you think of "mayonnaise").
Vichyssoise is credited to French chef Louis Diat, who recalled the humble "potage" his mother made when he was a child. He refined the soup when working at the Ritz-Carlton in New York City and named his version after Vichy, a spa city near his Bourbonnais home. It's doubtful that the creamy, buttery soup would appear on spa menus today (better stick to consommé!), but a few small sips of Monsieur Diat's adaptation should not cause irreparable harm.
The recipe that follows is almost classic, and is not too expensive to make. If you have to, use the leek substitute I've suggested, but leeks are lovely, mild-tasting vegetables, so do use them if you can. Just remember that dirt has a way of creeping between the layers, so cut the white parts in half, fan them and rinse well before slicing.
There seems to be a renaissance of vichyssoise on fine-dining menus now, and you can find variations that use sweet potatoes and others with poblano peppers to give the dish a little kick. Try the classic first, then see if you want to play around with variations.
4 large leeks, white parts only, minced (see note)
1 medium Maui onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup butter
4 medium russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups half-and-half
Salt, white pepper and nutmeg, to taste
Minced chives, for garnish
Cook leeks and onion in butter over low heat until soft, but not browned. Stir in potatoes so they're coated. Add broth, cover and simmer until potatoes are soft (about 20 minutes). Cool slightly.
Purée in blender or food processor. Add half-and-half and salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste (use more salt than you think you'll need, just a little pepper and small pinch of nutmeg). Chill thoroughly.
Garnish with minced chives. Makes about 2 quarts, 8 servings.
Note: If leeks are unavailable or too expensive, substitute white parts of 3 bunches green onions.Avocado soup is also beautiful, and because its ingredients are usually uncooked -- just stirred together and puréed -- it's as easy to make as the papaya soup. Because its color and taste depend upon having very ripe, luscious avocados, however, I serve it less often.
Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving (not including salt to taste): 280 calories, 13 g total fat, 8 g saturated fat, 40 mg cholesterol, 575 mg sodium, 36 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 5 g protein.
THIS IS the soup I make to serve with a chicken Caesar salad for a summer supper or as a first course for a dinner party when Kathleen, who cuts my husband's hair, shares her remarkable avocado tree's bounty. They're the big, green ones. The seeds slip right out, the peels peel themselves. They ripen completely, are butter-smooth and make a scrumptious soup.
The recipe below has been assembled from many that I've tried, and you might enjoy searching for others that suit your tastes. Many combine the avocados with cucumber, wasabi paste or jalapeño pepper. Some use sour cream, some curry spices, and others, such as the Chilean version in Burt Wolf's "Menu Cookbook," sauté ingredients (red onion, garlic and ginger, for example) before puréeing the soup.
Here, though, is a good, basic recipe to start with:
Icy Avocado Soup
3 large, ripe avocados
1-1/ 2 cups rich chicken broth, preferably homemade
2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice
1 cup chilled half-and-half
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1-1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
Dash tabasco, sriracha or white pepper
Cut avocados in half, remove seeds and scoop into blender. Add remaining ingredients; purée until smooth. Adjust seasonings and chill until ice-cold. Serve garnished with avocado slices (rubbed with lime juice to prevent discoloring), thin slices of lime and/or a dollop of sour cream. Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving: 300 calories, 27 g total fat, 7 g saturated fat, 25 mg cholesterol, greater than 1,200 mg sodium, 15 g carbohydrate, 9 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 5 g protein.
Nutritional analyses by Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S.