Home Cooking Recipes
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Quick & Easy
By Beverly Barbour

Soups for summer

An easy, elegant way to cool off on a hot day is with a cold soup. Each of these soups makes a satisfying lunch or a memorable first course. There is cooking involved, of course, but cooling can be hurried along. To quick-chill soups, nest soup-filled pan in iced water and stir often until the soup cools down. Shouldn't take more than 20 minutes.

Creme fraiche (pronounced krem-frash) has become popular in this country recently. It used to be available only in pricey little containers imported from France. Now there are American producers making a very high quality product, which can be sold at a much lower price than the imported French version.

The product is not actually fresh but instead it is cultured like sour cream and it has a little bit of a tang to it, like cream which has not yet gone sour but will take that step in a day or two. It is silky smooth and because of its high fat content, doesn't break or curdle when heated, making it a perfect base for sauces. It reminds me of the cream that used to be delivered to our house, together with two dozen fresh eggs, every Saturday night when I was a kid.

The cream was dropped off in a pint jar, so a jar exchange was a part of the Saturday night ritual before my mother would put on her hat and go down to Main Street to shop for Sunday's dinner. The cream was so heavy that it had to be spooned out of the jar and diluted for before it could be used. If creme fraiche is not available where you live, you can substitute heavy cream or cultured sour cream.


CREAMY CUCUMBER SOUP

Make this at least an hour before serving so that it will be cold, not lukewarm.

2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 pound yellow, dense potatoes (like Yukon Gold)
1 cup thinly sliced onion
1 cup thickly sliced celery
1/4 cup coarsely chopped parsley
1 scallion, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon butter
1 English cucumber (12 oz.) or regular cucumber, peeled and seeded
3/4 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon hot sauce (such as Tabasco)

Combine first 8 ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes mash easily with a fork, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, thinly slice a fourth of the cucumber; wrap airtight and chill. Coarsely chop remaining. Working in batches, whirl potato mixture and chopped cucumber in blender or food processor until smooth; pour into a large bowl. Stir in creme fraiche, salt and hot sauce. Cover and chill until cold, at least 1 hour, or up to 1 day. Thin with more broth, if desired, and add more salt and hot sauce to taste. Ladle into bowls, garnish with sliced cucumber and more creme fraiche. Makes 4 servings.


PRETTY YELLOW GAZPACHO

2 yellow bell peppers
1 cup chilled chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup sour cream or creme fraiche
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2/3 cup seedless grapes, rinsed and cut in half
2/3 cup cherry tomatoes, stemmed, rinsed and cut into halves or quarters
2/3 cup diced, seeded cucumber
1/4 cup coarsely chopped salted almonds
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves
salt and pepper

Rinse, stem, seed and coarsely chop bell peppers. In a blender, combine peppers, broth, sour cream and lemon juice. Whirl until smooth. If made up to 1 day ahead, cover and chill. Ladle soup into wide bowls. Combine remaining ingredients and spoon into the center of each bowl of soup. Makes 4 servings.


VICHYSSOISE

The cold potato soup that first made cold soups popular in this country. You can easily make this in 40 minutes.

1 pound thin-skinned potatoes, peeled
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons dry sherry, optional
1 cup half-and-half
1/4 pound sliced bacon, chopped
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives (or scallion tops)
salt and pepper

Cut potatoes into 1/2-inch chunks. Combine first 4 ingredients over high heat, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. In blender or food processor, whirl potato mixture until smooth. Return to pan and stir in half-and-half. Chill the soup and add more broth if you want to dilute it; check seasoning. Meanwhile, cook bacon until crisp and then drain on paper towels. Ladle soup into bowls, sprinkle top evenly with bacon and chives. Makes 4 servings.


AVOCADO SOUP WITH SHRIMP

Frozen, fresh or canned shrimp can be used as can tinned jalapeno chili pepper.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small white onion, minced
1 jalapeno chili, seeded, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced (or less)
4 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted, chopped
2 cups chicken broth
5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 cups water, or more
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
8 ounces cooked bay shrimp
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, diced
3 tablespoons chopped chives

Heat oil and sauté onions and jalapeno until tender, about 15 minutes. Add garlic; saute 2 minutes. Cool. Place avocado pulp in blender. Add chicken broth, 4 tablespoons lemon juice and onion mixture. Puree until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in 2 cups water and lemon peel. Thin soup with more water, if desired. Season to taste. Cover and chill well. Meanwhile, mix shrimp, cucumber, chives and 1 tablespoon lemon juice in medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Cover; refrigerate at least 1 hour. Ladle into bowls and top with shrimp. Makes 6 servings.

SERVING COLD SOUPS IS COOL!

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