Cold carrot soup, garnished with cilantro.Editor's note: It's a sweltering July, and we can already hear the resistance to soup, including the cold variety. But, for the brave and adventurous, there is a benefit to refreshing yourself with summer's fresh ingredients.
By Nancy Harmon Jenkins
Down in Andalucia, in the steamy south of Spain, no family refrigerator worth its size is without a tall glass pitcher of gazpacho, the ubiquitous tomato-based cold soup that defines the summer season. But tomatoes are hardly the lone source for great cold soups.
As with any cold food, soup flavor depends on freshness. Cold carrot soup, for instance, is terrific with fresh, sweet carrots from the farmers market (or your own garden), lightly garnished with cilantro and lime. If you make this with supermarket carrots, built to withstand transcontinental shipment, the flavor needs a big boost from the other ingredients such as ginger, lime or cilantro.
These soups are terrific as first courses, but they're also great to keep in the fridge, like that Andalucian gazpacho, for a quick, healthful snack in the middle of a hot summer afternoon.
COLD CARROT SOUP WITH CILANTRO AND LIME
2 leeks or fresh spring onions
1 pound carrots
1-inch piece of fresh ginger
1 or 2 limes for juicing
1 handful minced cilantro
1. Trim the tough green parts away from the leeks and slice the tender white stalks. (In the absence of leeks, substitute fresh onions, the kind that have not yet been dried, without the papery outer layer of skin.) Rinse thoroughly to get rid of any sand, then throw them in a soup kettle with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil (extra virgin, naturally) and a pinch of salt, and set over low heat.
2. Sweat out the leeks by stirring them occasionally over low heat until they have melted into a soft mass, but don't let them get brown. (You can add a little hot water to the leeks, if necessary, to keep them from browning.)
3. While the leeks are cooking, scrape and cut about a pound of carrots into chunks. Toss the carrots in with the softened leeks, along with boiling water to cover (no chicken stock because you really want the sweetness of the carrots to dominate).
4. After 20 to 30 minutes, when the carrots should be tender enough to crush with a fork, turn the whole thing into a blender or food processor, along with an inch or so of fresh ginger that you've peeled and chopped fine.
5. Purée until it's as smooth as you like, adding the juice of a lime, then set in the refrigerator to chill thoroughly. When you're ready to serve the soup, taste it and add more lime juice if you wish. Stir in the minced cilantro, reserving a little to sprinkle over the top.
RELATED: The ever-changing farmers market.
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COLD CORN SOUP WITH GREEN CHILE
This soup really should be puréed in a blender. It will never be perfectly smooth because of the tough outer husks of each little kernel. But if you strain it through a wire-mesh sieve it will be smooth enough for most purposes.
6 ears corn
2 leeks or onions
Oil or butter for sautéing
2 green chile peppers (jalapeño or serrano is a good choice)
1/2 cup cream (optional)
1 cup plain yogurt
Fresh herbs for garnish flat-leaf parsley, chives, basil, thyme, lovage are all good choices)
1. Scrape the kernels off of about six ears of fresh corn, using a spoon or a table knife to get all the milky bits out. This should give you between 4 and 5 cups of corn.
2. Set that aside and sweat out a couple of fat leeks or fresh onion in oil or butter, or a combination of the two. Stir them occasionally over low heat until they have melted into a soft mass, but don't let them get brown.
3. Once the leeks are thoroughly softened, stir in the corn kernels and one of the chiles, trimmed and chopped.
4. Add some salt and boiling water to cover and let the corn cook until it is done. This should take no more than 20 minutes but you can tell by tasting. If the kernels still have a little crunch and a raw, green flavor, then it hasn't cooked enough.
3. Take the soup off the heat and let it cool a bit, then purée it in a blender (you'll have to do this in batches). As you purée the soup, add the cream if you wish and then some of the yogurt, tasting as you go along. When it's done, strain the purée through a wire-mesh sieve into a bowl, then set the bowl in the refrigerator.
4. Taste the soup again when you're ready to serve. It may need more salt or more yogurt. Serve the soup with the minced fresh herbs on top.
Optional: For a more substantial garnish, saute a couple of ounces of prosciutto or serrano ham, cut into half-inch-wide slivers, until it's as crisp as bacon, then break the strips up and scatter on top of each bowl.
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From "Olives & Oranges," by Sara Jenkins and Mindy Fox. Based on the Italian idea of prosciutto and melon, this one carries the added hot-weather pleasure of requiring no cooking at all.
3 pounds fresh, ripe cantaloupe
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons aged sherry vinegar
1 cup plain yogurt
Dried chiles or red chili powder
Prosciutto or Serrano ham, cut into matchsticks for garnish
1. Peel and seed the cantaloupe and the cucumber and cut them into chunks.
2. Finely mince the shallots.
3. Add all of this to the jar of a blender, with a couple of tablespoons of vinegar and a pinch of salt. Purée until it's very smooth. You should have about 4 cups in the blender jar. That's too much to work with comfortably so tip half of that into a bowl that will go in the refrigerator.
4. Add the yogurt to what remains in the blender jar and purée again. As you do so, slowly but steadily add 1 cup extra virgin olive oil in a thin stream. (If this seems like a lot of olive oil, as it did to me the first time I made this, be of good cheer. It really does work together.) In the end you should have a creamy, unctuous liquid that you will now combine in the bowl with the part you set aside earlier.
5. Refrigerate until the soup is well chilled, then taste and add more salt or another spoonful of vinegar.
6. If you have a few whole dried red chiles -- Spanish ones called ñoras are good for this, but ancho chiles will do as well -- toast the peppers in a dry frying pan until they're crisp, then break them open, shake the seeds out and chop or crush the peppers in a spice grinder. Serve the soup in bowls, each one garnished with the crushed peppers (or ground red chili powder) and the matchsticks of ham.
Zester Daily contributor Nancy Harmon Jenkins is the author of several books, including "Cucina del Sole: A Celebration of the Cuisines of Southern Italy" and "The Essential Mediterranean."
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