Published On: Thu, Jun 25th, 2020

This Is One Cool Cucumber Soup

When it’s too hot to cook, there’s a long, vast tradition of chilled soups to save the day. Be they gazpacho, borscht, shav or a creamy, yogurt-based cucumber soup seasoned with garlic and herbs, there are few summer lunches as cooling and satisfying.

To make enough cucumber-yogurt soup for three or four, cut a pound of cucumbers into rough chunks. If you can find cucumbers with thin, unwaxed skins and small seeds — hothouse, Persian or Kirby work well — you don’t need to peel or seed them first. Otherwise, peel and seed at your discretion.

Put the chunks in a blender with 1½ cups plain yogurt (Greek or regular) and a splash of milk or water, if you like a thinner, brothier, more drinkable soup. You could also use buttermilk or kefir without the water.

[See a version of this recipe on NYT Cooking.]

Add ½ cup soft herbs (dill, basil, mint, parsley, tarragon, chives or a combination), 2 scallions (or ¼ cup sliced red onion or shallot), 1 peeled garlic clove, and ½ teaspoon each kosher salt and sherry or white wine vinegar.

This is your base. You could whirl it up as is, garnish bowls with some good olive oil and flaky salt, and have a lovely, simple meal.

But I like to go further, adding a few seasonings and garnishes to deepen the flavors. To the blender, you can add any or all of these, to suit your predilections: 1 to 2 anchovy fillets, half of a seeded jalapeño or other fresh chile, a large pinch of ground cumin or coriander, a small pinch of cayenne, a squeeze of lime juice and some grated zest. Play around, tasting as you go. Cold soup is forgiving.

You can also go a little wild with the garnishes. Some favorites include chopped hard-boiled egg, crumbled feta or ricotta salata, cubes of avocado, tomato, red onion or watermelon or cantaloupe (so sweet and cooling), croutons, a dollop of sour cream, a slice of smoked salmon.

But without the garnish, you could also serve this in a glass and drink your lunch, which is an acceptable option when it’s too hot to chew.

This is part of a series in which Melissa Clark teaches you how to cook with pantry staples. See more.

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