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Summer soup-erstars

Chilled bowl, mug or shot glass of blended fruit and vegetable creations a great, refreshing way to start a warm-weather dinner

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Thai Green Pea Soup, developed by food columnist Lucy Waverman, is smooth and slightly spicy with the addition of green curry sauce.

ESHUN MOTT / HANDOUT Enlarge Image

Thai Green Pea Soup, developed by food columnist Lucy Waverman, is smooth and slightly spicy with the addition of green curry sauce.

LONDON, Ont. - Based on the general conception of soup, "chilled soup" is something of an oxymoron.

Real soup is warming, hearty and comforting, not cold. But there are lots of good words to describe chilled soup as well — refreshing, flavourful, hydrating, easy to make, even fruity.

"They're two totally different things," says food writer Lucy Waverman, who is the author of eight cookbooks including last fall's "The Flavour Principle: Enticing Your Senses With Food and Drink" (HarperCollins Canada).

"I make cold soups a lot in the summer because I like to start a dinner party off with something refreshing. There are so many combinations and interesting flavours that you can use in the summer. I'm very keen on cold soups."

Holistic nutritionist and cookbook author Joy McCarthy of Toronto is also a fan of chilled soup.

"I find that usually chilled soups are really fast and simple, with fewer ingredients. It's a matter of just throwing three, four, five ingredients into a blender and then you have your soup immediately," she says.

You can eat it right away or chill it for a couple of hours, says McCarthy, whose first cookbook, "Joyous Health: Eat and Live Well Without Dieting" (Penguin Canada), was released in January.

Not all chilled soups can be made that fast, of course. Some vegetable-based soups require the vegetables to be steamed, boiled or roasted before being combined with other ingredients and some fruit soups require time on the stove before being blended and chilled.

Vegetables and fruits are generally the stars of cold soups. Meats are seldom found in them, except perhaps in the form of a prosciutto or shrimp garnish. But in terms of the bases used to make them, their versatility certainly rivals their winter cousins.

Depending on the type of soup, bases can include milk, cream, buttermilk, sour cream, yogurt, nut milks such as almond or coconut, hemp milk, fruit juices, vegetable juices, wine (still or sparkling), other liquors, tomatoes or water.

Since almost all chilled soups are pureed, "the texture might be creamier, but it doesn't mean it has cream in it," the Toronto-based Waverman says.

"Flavour" is the key to successful chilled soup, she says.

"When you chill anything, it loses flavour, so you have to start with things that are really flavourful.

"You can add things like Thai curry paste or Indian curry pastes into them. That definitely adds flavour. You can use different kinds of herbs and lots of mint, thyme, lemon, salt. Salt is very big in cold soups because once you chill them, you have to add enough salt that it holds the flavour."

The idea of fruit soups may be a little foreign to some, says Waverman.

"Some people would think fruit soups are not something they would like to have as a first course because they think of fruit as dessert, but fruit can be beautifully savoury if you decide to use that flavour profile. You can definitely use a lot of spice. You can use lots of herbs and salt. Keep the sugar out of it."

McCarthy's all for that. Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom and cloves, for example, are complementary flavourings with many fruits, she says. Likewise, basil goes well with strawberries and blueberries and mint is a natural with orange or lime.

Some recipes are labelled as dessert soups, a concept McCarthy finds "kind of weird." These generally tend to be fruit soups sweetened with honey, sugar or fruit juices.

But she really likes some fruit and vegetable combinations in chilled soup. One of her favourites is parsnip with apple or pear.

Chilled soups — both fruit and vegetable versions — are usually served as the first course in a summer meal, but you have to ensure the rest of the menu is balanced so that a highly spiced cold soup, for example, doesn't outshine the dishes that follow, says Waverman.

McCarthy says cold soup and a salad is a "nice way to eat lighter and fresher for the summer."

For entertaining, chilled soup shooters — chilled soup served in liqueur or shot glasses — are a novel appetizer.

Gazpacho and vichyssoise are two classic cold soups and probably the best known. Traditional Spanish gazpacho has a tomato base combined with other ingredients such as peppers, onions, garlic, cucumbers, herbs, vinegar and olive oil, but it has been adapted in so many ways that fruit versions are now common.

Despite its French name, vichyssoise may have been invented by a chef in New York. Its combination of leeks, potatoes, onions, chicken or vegetable stock and cream has been called "the finest of all cold soups."

Here are four diverse recipes for delicious chilled soups, perfect for summertime entertaining.

Thai Green Pea Soup

Green curry sauce gives a spicy lift to this soup and the arugula balances the sweetness of the peas. A blender works best because it breaks down the pea skins, making a smooth puree.

 

30 ml (2 tbsp) vegetable oil
125 ml (1/2 cup) chopped onions
5 ml (1 tsp) chopped ginger
125 ml (1/2 cup) diced Yukon gold potatoes
7 ml (1 1/2 tsp) Thai green curry paste
1 l (4 cups) chicken stock
750 ml (3 cups) fresh or frozen peas
250 ml (1 cup) arugula
75 ml (1/3 cup) whipping cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Mint, for garnish

 

In a pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute for 2 minutes or until softened. Add ginger and potatoes and saute for another 2 minutes or until potatoes are coated with oil. Add green curry paste and stir together.

Add chicken stock, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes or until potatoes are softened. Add peas and arugula and cook until peas are softened, about 3 minutes. Add cream and bring to a boil.

Remove from heat, puree in batches in a blender and season with salt and pepper. Chill.

Serve in chilled mugs, garnished with mint.

Makes 6 servings.

Source: "The Flavour Principle: Enticing Your Senses With Food and Drink" by Lucy Waverman and Beppi Crosariol (HarperCollins Canada, 2013).

———

Chilled Cucumber Avocado Soup

This soup is perfect for a hot summer day and the avocado gives it a wonderful creaminess. It requires no cooking and is vegetarian and gluten-free.

 

2 ripe avocados, peeled and cut in large chunks
1 small cucumber, cut in large chunks, reserving some thin slices for garnish
1 clove garlic
250 ml (1 cup) plain yogurt or coconut milk yogurt for a dairy-free option (approx)
50 ml (1/4 cup) fresh dill
50 ml (1/4 cup) cilantro
Juice of 2 limes

 

Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth and creamy. If you prefer a creamier texture, add more yogurt. Chill for 30 minutes before serving. Garnish with cucumber slices.

Makes 3 or 4 servings.

Source: "Joyous Health: Eat and Live Well Without Dieting" by Joy McCarthy (Penguin Canada Books Inc., 2014).

———

Summer Lovin' Gazpacho

Gazpacho is a classic chilled soup, and although many variations have been developed, traditional Spanish gazpacho is made with tomatoes. This "raw" soup is vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free.

 

5 or 6 ripe tomatoes, cut in chunks, or 1 can (796 ml/28 oz) whole tomatoes
1 sweet red pepper, cut in chunks
1/2 red onion
1/2 English cucumber, cut in chunks
2 cloves garlic
125 ml (1/2 cup) cilantro
50 ml (1/4 cup) fresh basil
50 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
Parsley leaves, for garnish
50 ml (1/4 cup) finely chopped cucumber and red pepper, for garnish

 

Place all ingredients except garnishes in a blender or food processor. Process to your desired consistency (a few soft chunks are nice). Refrigerate for up to 1 hour.

Serve chilled with a garnish of parsley and a touch of finely chopped cucumber and red pepper.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: "Joyous Health: Eat and Live Well Without Dieting" by Joy McCarthy (Penguin Canada Books Inc., 2014).

———

Cardamom Parsnip Pear Soup

Vegetable and fruit combine in this delicious soup and the garnish of hemp seeds adds a splash of protein. This soup can be served cold or hot. It is vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free.

 

2 or 3 medium parsnips, peeled if not organic, cut in chunks
2 Bosc pears, peeled if not organic, cored and cut in chunks
750 ml to 1 l (3 to 4 cups) almond milk or water
5 to 10 ml (1 to 2 tsp) ground cardamom
Lots of freshly cracked black pepper and a pinch of sea salt, to taste
175 ml (3/4 cup) hemp seeds, for garnish

 

Heat oven to 180 C (350 F).

Place parsnips in a covered baking dish with 1 cm (1/2 inch) of water. Do the same in a separate dish with the pears. Bake, covered, until parsnips and pears are fork-tender. The pears will take about 35 minutes and the parsnips may take up to 1 hour.

Transfer pears, parsnips and any liquid from dish to a food processor or blender. Add almond milk and cardamom. Process until smooth. (Or transfer to a large saucepan and blend with an immersion blender.)

Transfer to a large saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Remove from heat. Season with pepper and salt and chill for at least 2 hours. Garnish with hemp seeds.

Quick Method: If you are crunched for time and have a super-high-powered blender, place all ingredients except salt, pepper and hemp seeds in blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to a large saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Season with pepper and salt. Chill for at least 2 hours if you want cold soup or garnish with hemp seeds and serve immediately if you want hot soup.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Source: "Joyous Health: Eat and Live Well Without Dieting" by Joy McCarthy (Penguin Canada Books Inc., 2014).

To contact Susan Greer, email her at susan.greer(at)rogers.com.

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