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The Big Chill Some cool soups for hot days

July 30, 2009 By:
Linda Morel, Jewish Exponent Feature
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WHAT'S COOKING?

Although it sounds like a contradiction in terms, I'm a great fan of cold soups, which are even more versatile than their steaming winter counterparts. When was the last time you heard of anyone serving piping-hot soup for breakfast or dessert? Yet ice-cold soups can be anything you want them to be.

I eat frosty fruit soups at all three meals. For a healthy snack, I pour them into a glass, imitating a juice-bar smoothie. The best fruit soups are puréed with dairy products, such as yogurt, buttermilk or sour cream.

There's a lot to be said for the snap of chilled berry soups. I also adore stone cold soups, made with stone fruit, such as peaches, nectarines, apricots, or cherries, so named because of their stony pits.

I fell in love with cold soup after my very first velvety taste of vichyssoise. This was a decade before Julia Child introduced Americans to the sophistication of French food.

Cold savory soups run the gamut -- from vegetables and potatoes steeped in broth and chilled to chopped raw vegetables swimming in garden-fresh juices.

This genre of soup is surprisingly refreshing, easy to prepare, and can be whipped up from foods you have on hand. Most leftover vegetable soups or creamed soups can be reinvented by a spin in the blender.

The only downside is that you have to check their seasoning, which tends to blur in the cooling process. Fruit soups require the snap of citrus, pineapple or cranberry to balance their creaminess. Fresh herbs enhance most cold vegetable soups. While savory soups improve with age -- actually tasting better a day after preparation -- fruit soups lose their brightness, and are best consumed the day they're made.

I serve fruit soups with biscuits, popovers, cinnamon-raisin bagels or cookies. Savory soups taste great with sourdough or black bread and a tossed salad. And to accent their brilliant color, I often present fruit soups in glass bowls.

On hot days, chill out with a blender full of summer's bounty. What could be cooler than meals that practically prepare themselves?

Chilled Peach Soup
(Dairy)

12 large ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and coarsely diced
2 cups low-fat sour cream
2 cups pineapple juice
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. lemon zest
8 sprigs of mint

In two batches, place the ingredients in a blender and purée.

Serve immediately, or refrigerate and serve within 6 hours.

Garnish each bowl with a sprig of mint.

Serves 8.

Berry Cold Soup
(Dairy)

2 pints strawberries, rinsed and hulled
2 pints blueberries, rinsed and stems removed
21/2 cups low-fat sour cream
2 cups cran-raspberry juice
4 Tbsps. sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cloves

In two batches, place the ingredients in a blender and purée until blueberry skins pulverize into small dots.

Serve immediately, or refrigerate and serve within 6 hours.

Serves 8.

Light Cream Vichyssoise
(Dairy)

5 baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 8 chunks
2 vegetable bouillon cubes
1 bay leaf
3 leeks
2 shallots, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsps. butter
salt to taste
white pepper to taste
1/2 pint light cream
1 pint half & half
1 bunch chives, rinsed and dried in a paper towel

In a large pot, submerge the potato chunks in cold water.

Add bouillon cubes and bay leaf. Bring to a rolling boil and cook until soft, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut off leek roots and the green part of leaves. Remove coarse outer leaves and discard.

Cut leeks in half lengthwise and thoroughly rinse them, inside and out. Dry on paper towels.

Cut leeks horizontally in 1/4-inch slices and place in a bowl, along with shallots and garlic.

In another large pot, melt the oil and butter.

Add the leek mixture. Season with salt and white pepper. Stir and sauté until the leeks wilt, about 2 minutes.

Over a large bowl, drain potatoes in a colander and reserve the broth. Add the potatoes and 3 soup ladles of broth to the leek mixture. Cover pot and simmer a few minutes, until leeks soften.

Remove pot cover and stir contents, cooling enough to handle. Discard bay leaf.

Ladle 1/3 of the potato mixture and broth into a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process until mixture is lump-free. Drizzle in 1/3 of the cream and process until well-combined.

Pour into a large bowl and repeat two more times.

Gradually pour Half & Half into the bowl, whisking vigorously to combine. If soup seems too thick, add a bit more broth to reach the right consistency.

Check seasoning; add more salt, if necessary.

Cover bowl and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours. Stir well before serving. Ladle soup into bowls.

Snip the chives into 1/8-inch lengths and garnish soup.

Editor's Note: Vichyssoise can also be served hot.

Serves 8 to 10.

Linda Morel is a writer based in New York City. E-mail her at: [email protected].

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