Picture yourself – it’s already late at night and you had some snacks, maybe some charcuterie or cheese with your cocktails, but you still haven’t made anything for dinner. You don’t feel like turning on the oven (it’s the middle of summer) and are looking for something simple and nutritious.
Chilled summer soups are great for the occasion. Here are a couple more ideas. One is this very straightforward cucumber sorrel gazpacho based on a recipe by Russ Parsons in How to Pick a Peach. The book is a fairly complete list of fruit and vegetable grouped by season that provides an overview for each together with recommendations about storage, preparation, and a few simple recipes. I find that it’s a good starting point and I use it quite a bit to figure out ways to use the sometimes not-so-familiar vegetables in my CSA.
For the recipe I used a cucumber from my CSA and a few sorrel leaves from the patio. The cucumber sorrel gazpacho is made by blending a cucumber (1/2 lb, unpeeled), then adding chopped sorrel leaves with the steams discarded (1/2 oz*) (reserve a few leaves for the garnish) with a small clove of garlic, salt and yogurt (1 cup). Once everything is very smooth, add some bread. I used 1/2 slice of fresh white bread, but this is also a great occasion to use stale bread (it just needs to be soaked in water and squeezed dry beforehand). Blend some more and check the consistency which should be similar to heavy cream. It’s best to refrigerate the soup for about an hour before serving. Add some chiseled sorrel leaves as the garnish and a dollop of yoghurt if you would like.
The soup has a fresh crisp taste, with some nice acidity from the sorrel.
Before you know it, it will be all gone.
An unusual gazpacho that does not use tomatoes or cucumber except in the garnish is the white gazpacho in the Tartine Bread cookbook, from the famous bakery in San Francisco. According to the book, this version with almond, bread and garlic pre-dates the more common tomato-based gazpacho.
For this one, you need to boil some almonds (1/4 lb) with a small garlic clove in water for a couple of minutes and then drain. I use blanched sliced almonds that I buy in large quantities to make my orgeat or French macaron cookies. You mix them with the garlic in the blender, adding a slice of stale bread (pre-soaked if very hard), together with 1.5 cups of water and some salt, until the mixture is very smooth, which will take several minutes. Add good olive oil (1/4 cup) and blend again until the mixture has the consistency of heavy cream (add a little bit of water if necessary). Season with sherry vinegar and lemon juice (1/2 oz each).
The garnish is a little fussy but it really makes the dish so don’t skip it! Chop 1/2 cup each cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and red seedless grapes. Season like a little salad with olive oil, sherry vinegar, salt + pepper and finely sliced mint leaves. Serve the soup with a couple of spoonfuls of red gazpacho garnish.
The soup has a comforting and cooling flavor. It is filling and the little red gazpacho makes the flavors stand out while providing texture.
(*) This is a small amount but don’t be tempted to increase it too much – raw sorrel contains oxalic acid which can be harmful at high doses.