Good enough for Wonderland: an ode to versatile soup | WHIDBEY RECIPES

“Who for such dainties would not stoop?

“Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!”

Thus sang the Mock Turtle to Alice, in one of the many memorable scenes from “Alice in Wonderland,” a favorite book from my childhood, which I admit I reread perhaps once a year or so. Why? Because I never fail to find some new bit of fancy or wit that makes me smile or causes me to stop and think about a new twist on an old tale.

One of my favorite scenes in Alice’s strange day of adventures is her walk along the seashore in the company of Gryphon and Mock Turtle. During their walk, Gryphon asks Mock Turtle to sing the Soup Song for Alice, which he does, with tears in his eyes. I won’t bore you with the entire song; if you don’t remember it, read the book again for yourself, if you’re at all interested.

The point of all this? Well, it’s about soup, one of my top favorite all-purpose foods, and because of our recent heat wave, I’ve been eating a lot of soup. No, not hot soup; cold soup. Among many things I love about summer is that when it gets hot, it’s time for soup, beautiful soup, soup of the evening — chilled, silky and delicious. To make it even more delightful, most cold soups are surprisingly easy to put together and require little to no heating up of the kitchen. During all of those upper-80s, even 90-degree days, fixing a meal without sweltering in the kitchen has been a definite bonus.

We’re all familiar, I think, with Vichyssoise, the first cold soup I ever ate and fell head over heels for. If it’s served hot, of course, it’s just good old potato leek soup, but served icy cold on a hot day, it’s delightful, delicious Vichyssoise. But, that’s only the beginning of all the possibilities. How about a creamy, chilly bowl of Avocado Soup with Ancho Cream, a touch of heat, but only for your taste buds. Or perhaps a cool, silky Potage Aux Concombres? Relax, it’s only cold cucumber soup, supremely easy to prepare, light and delicious on a hot summer’s eve. Yes, I do have a fat file labeled “Cold Soup,” and a few follow this ramble.

As the Mock Turtle sang to Alice,

“Who would not give all else for two

“Pennyworth only of Soup, beautiful Soup.”

RECIPES

With some of July, all of August and, the way things are going, probably into Sept., ahead of us yet, we all have many warm evenings to enjoy a bowl of cool, refreshing, light and delicious Soup; these are but a few possibilities.

POTAGE FROID aux CONCOMBRES

1 leek, slit lengthwise, washed well, sliced thin crosswise

2 garlic cloves, minced (more if you wish)

2 T. olive oil

1 ¼ lbs. fresh cucumbers (probably 2, depending upon which kind you use), peeled, seeded and chopped

1 cup buttermilk, or use plain yogurt (I like to use plain Greek yogurt; it makes it almost tzatziki soup)

1 cup chicken broth

1 t., or to taste freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 T. chopped fresh basil leaves

1. In a large baking dish combine the leek, garlic and oil; microwave mixture at high power, stirring once, for 6-8 min. or until the vegetables are softened. Stir in the cucumbers and salt to taste; microwave mixture on high power for 5-7 min., or until the cucumber is just tender, not mushy.

2. In a blender, puree the mixture with the buttermilk (or yogurt), broth and lemon juice until mixture is smooth. Transfer soup to a metal bowl and set it in a larger bowl of ice and cold water; stir the soup until it’s cold. Stir in the basil and salt and pepper to taste; serve in chilled bowls, sprinkled with a bit of chopped basil and, if desired, a small dollop of yogurt. Serves 2.

Note: To make it even more of a treat, if you have a bit of smoked salmon on hand, chop it into small pieces and sprinkled it over your dollop of yogurt; and you can also use minced fresh dill rather than basil, for a change of flavor.

 

Another classic chilled soup is, of course, gazpacho, served virtually everywhere in Italy in the summertime. Try this version, with the added treat of avocado puree.

GAZPACHO, WITH AVOCADO PUREE

5 lbs. (medium sized) fresh, ripe tomatoes

3 cups low salt chicken broth (or use vegetable broth, if preferred)

¾ cup finely chopped red onion

2/3 cup fresh lime juice

6 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 T. chopped fresh Italian parsley

2 T. chopped fresh chives

2 T. chopped fresh cilantro

2 med. Haas avocados, peeled, seeded, diced

2 serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded, deveined and minced

2 T. (approx.) cold water

4 T. extra virgin olive

1. Cut a shallow little x in the skin of each tomato on the side opposite the stem. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and drop in tomatoes, in batches as necessary. Cook about 30 seconds; remove from water with a slotted spoon to a colander or plate. Repeat until all tomatoes are done. When cooled, peel tomatoes starting at the x. Cut in half horizontally and squeeze out seeds and juice. Place tomatoes in food processor; pulse to chop into a coarse puree. Transfer to a coarse strainer to drain, stirring often, for about 30 min.

2. Combine puree, chicken broth, 1/3 cup lime juice, garlic, parsley, chives and cilantro in a large bowl. Season gazpacho with salt and pepper to taste and chill for at least 2 hrs. or up to a day.

3. Blend avocados, chiles, 2 T. water, remaining lime juice in processor until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste; add more water to thin, if desired. Ladle gazpacho into chilled bowls; top with avocado puree and a drizzle of olive oil. Serves 6.

 

Too many excellent recipes for chilled soup, too little space, but since it’s crabbing season around here now, here’s a delicious, light, healthy (all that celery) chilled crab and celery soup. Try it when you have some fresh crab meat, perhaps with cornbread and a salad.

CELERY CRAB SOUP WITH DILL

1 sweet onion, sliced

5 cups coarsely chopped celery, including leaves

2 cups low-salt chicken broth (or use vegetable broth if you prefer)

1 cup water

½ cup dry white wine

½ lb. crab meat, crumbled slightly

1 cup heavy cream

1 T. minced fresh dill

1 T. fresh lemon juice

In a large saucepan, simmer the onion, celery, broth, water and wine, uncovered, for 30 min. In a blender, puree mixture in batches until smooth, transferring as pureed to a bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients, season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill soup, covered, at least 4 hrs. or overnight

Makes about 6 ½ cups. Serve in chilled bowls, with a bit of additional crab meat on top in each bowl, or a small dollop of sour cream or yogurt. Sprinkle with chopped chives, if desired.