Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cool as a Cucumber Soup

During the three month heat wave we Marylanders call a typical summer, I do my best not to produce extra heat in the kitchen. Sweating over the stove is just not necessary to produce a delicious, healthy meal.

The proverbially cool cucumber lends itself to many a tempting dish, mostly of the salad variety. They are easy to prep and can be eaten raw, turning hard labor in the kitchen to a cool breeze, followed by a refreshing payoff at dinner.

Some of my favorite cucumber preparations for salad are simple. They can be served sliced with some diced onion and a apple cider vinaigrette for and amazingly simple side salad. Careful cutting and scooping can yield cucumber cups, in which to serve other salads such as chicken, tuna, or pasta salads. Even when they are julienned and served with a hummus or ranch style dipping sauce, cucumbers shine.

Cold soups are an avenue taken by the adventurous gourmands. Whenever I ask my friends and family if they would try certain things, a cold soup idea is usually met with hearty dose of skepticism. But do not fear the cold soup! Just as hot soups and stews are heartwarming home cooked meals in the winter, a cold soup can serve as a cooling entree to combat the heat of a summer day.

My Cool as a Cucumber Soup has lots of flavor and is quite easy to prepare, especially with a food processor. I made the original with a low tech box grater, but the outcome was still delightfully green and delish.

Cool as a Cucumber Soup with Parmesan Toast

2 to 4 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 to 3 cloves of Garlic, grated
4 medium Cucumbers, seeded and grated with the skin on
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 large container plain low fat or no fat yogurt
Cilantro, finely chopped
Zest and juice of 1 Lime
Salt and Pepper to taste.

1 loaf Italian bread, sliced on a diagonal
2 to 4 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 to a 1/2 cup crumbled Parmesan Cheese

This soup is a chop and drop type of one bowl meal. Start with the Extra Virgin Olive Oil in the bottom of your serving bowl.

Grate in the garlic. Slice the cuckes in half and remove the seeds with a spoon. Grate the cucumber halves over a cutting board before sliding them into the bowl. I left the skins on to add color. Save the ends for a garnish: trim of the bumpy edge left by the grater and using your (sharp) chef's knife, thinly slice the ends into half moons. Put the half moons in a small bowl and set aside.

Rinse and slice the scallions and a handful of cilantro and add to the bowl along with the zest and juice of one lime. Stir in the container of plain yogurt. Season to taste with Salt and Pepper.

The resulting soup is a bit thick and can be thinned with vegetable stock if necessary.

If you are using a food processor to prepare, you won't need the grater. Start with the olive oil in the processor bowl. Peel the garlic cloves and puree those until they are finely chopped. Slice the cucumbers in half and scoop out the seeds, as above. Chop the cucumber halves into 1 or 2 inch pieces and give them a whir, along with the scallions, and add the remaining ingredients, as above. You may have to pour out the vegetable mixture into your serving bowl before adding the yogurt, depending on the size of you processor. The resulting soup should be quite smoother than the grated version.

Fan out a few of the saved half moon slices on top of each bowl and serve with some Parmesan toast. Parmesan toast is a variation on the garlic toast I made with the gazpacho however, there is a lot of garlic flavor already in the cucumber soup. Parmesan cheese counters this with a salty mellow flavor.

Toast the sliced bread with a little drizzle of Olive oil and instead of rubbing the slices with a garlic clove, sprinkle on a little bit a Parmesan cheese.

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