I’m a huge fan of soup. Preparing a batch of soup feels much like art to me. The pot is a blank canvas in which to layer flavors with endless possibilities. Precision isn’t usually necessary and a creative, uninhibited approach often results in a delicious masterpiece. Soups also provide a great way to use up abundant items in the refrigerator. Which is perfect for this time of year, when you come home from the farmers market with perhaps more than you intended!
A hot cup of soup in summer might not sound appealing, but the answer is chilled soup. It’s a refreshing change of pace to counter the heat of the season, and some recipes don’t even require cooking.
Perhaps the most well known cold soup is gazpacho. In the classic version, you blend fresh tomatoes with cucumbers, bell pepper, garlic, oil, vinegar, herbs, and perhaps a bit of day-old bread, then chill it to allow the soup to thicken. The fresh, invigorating flavor of this dish just screams summer in a bowl.
Salmorejo is the thicker, creamer cousin of gazpacho. It’s made much like traditional gazpacho by blending tomatoes, garlic, oil, and vinegar, but with more bread and processed to a fine pureed consistency to create a velvety rich finished product. Salmorejo is often garnished with hard boiled egg and cured ham, which makes me think it would be perfect for summer brunch.
Tomatoes aren’t the only stars of the gazpacho show. other combinations of fresh vegetables and fruits make for stellar starts to a great batch of gazpacho. Locally grown tomatoes have begun appearing at market now, but the many other twists are worth a try.
White gazpacho uses almonds as a base which are often combined with grapes. In addition to nuts, cauliflower could be used for added nutrition. A green gazpacho base includes cucumber, avocado, or tomatillos, which will soon be plentiful at market. Melons, such as a cantaloupe or watermelon, create a sweet, addictively delicious cold soup, especially with fresh mint and a bit of sour cream.
Once you decide on the base, the sky’s the limit for additional ingredients. You could make your cold soup spicy or sweet or a little of both. My favorite is a seafood gazpacho with tomato and cucumber, horseradish and lemon, then loaded with freshly cooked and chilled mussels, shrimp, clams, scallops, crab, and fish. Yum!
The cold potato soup Vichyssoise is another great dish for summer. It’s traditionally made with potato, leeks and chicken stock. First, boil and drain some potatoes. Cook chopped leeks in butter until soft, then add the stock and simmer with a little nutmeg, salt and pepper. Add the cooked potatoes and blend. Once chilled, add some heavy or sour cream.
This soup creates a great backdrop for other combinations. Try boiling spring turnips or cauliflower with the potatoes. Maybe add garlic, fennel, carrot or celery to the sautéed leeks? The finished product could get a garnish of fresh herbs such as chive, dill, basil, or fennel fronds.
Many other chilled soup recipes use berries, cherries, or even peaches. Blend the fruits with coconut or almond milk, fresh herbs and spices to create a whole different kind of chilled soup party.
Also keep in mind that many common hot soups can easily become a chilled summer soup dish. Think corn chowder, creamy carrot, borscht, vegetable soup with zucchini, or fresh pea with mint.
Grilled and Chilled Sweet Corn Chowder
This soup tastes incredible when chilled but certainly can be enjoyed hot as well. I love the depth of flavor that the grilled corn and onion adds. Instead of grilling, you could add the raw corn and chopped onion to the bacon fat, and just cook them a bit longer before adding the liquids. Consider saving the cobs in the freezer for corn stock.
3 cobs of corn, husks removed
1 large white onion, cut in half
3–4 strips bacon, diced small
¼ cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken stock
¾ cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the grill to medium. Place the husked corn cob and onion on grill, turning occasionally to char on all sides and until vegetables soften (approx. 10 minutes). Remove from grill.
Heat a large heavy bottom pot over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until almost crisp. While bacon is cooking, cut kernels off cob and cut onion into small diced pieces. Remove most of the crisp pieces of bacon from pot and set aside. Also set aside ¼ cup of corn.
Add the rest of the corn and the onion to pot. Cook approximately 5 minutes. Deglaze pan with white wine. Cook another 3 minutes. Add stock. Bring to a boil then simmer about 20 minutes.
Stir in cream, bring just to a boil then remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper. Blend using an immersion blender or in a blender working in batches. Transfer soup to refrigerator to cool. (If you prefer a very smooth consistency, strain soup through a sieve before chilling.)
When ready to serve, garnish with reserved bacon, corn, fresh chives, and season with salt and lots of fresh ground pepper. If you like a little heat, tabasco is a nice addition.