Sip into something cool summer soups

June 29, 1994|By Kay Prokop | Kay Prokop,Copley News Service

Americans are usually pretty lukewarm about chilled soups.

Unlike the Spaniards with their indispensable gazpacho, the Russians who belt down the borscht and the French who dip daintily into vichyssoise, Americans tend to like their soups hot and hearty.

There's also a feeling that cold soups are time-consuming and complicated to make, and that is the ultimate misunderstanding. With a blender or food processor, the tedious work is nearly nil. They can be whipped up the night before or in the morning and refrigerated until serving time. On a warm summer evening, they relieve the cook from the kitchen and, accompanied by no more than a loaf of crusty bread are the ultimate fast food.

So don't turn a cold shoulder to chilled soups, at least not until you've tried one of these easy concoctions. Each is filled with flavor and takes less than half an hour to make.

The first is made with the cool cucumber. You can either leave it chunky or puree in a blender or food processor.

Chilled Vegetable Soup has a silky texture and terrific flavor. I sometimes serve it with hot corn bread made from a mix.

No chilled soup column would be complete without borscht, or beet soup. It's wonderful with some pumpernickel bread and butter, maybe a little sliced ham or corned beef.

Summer Soup

Makes 3 or 4 servings

1 (8-ounce) container plain yogurt

1 cup chicken broth, canned or homemade

1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/2 teaspoon plain or celery salt

1/8 teaspoon Tabasco, or to taste

1/4 cup chopped green onion tops or cilantro

Stir together or puree until smooth all ingredients except green onion or cilantro in blender or food processor. Cover and allow to chill several hours or overnight. Sprinkle with onion or cilantro and serve in chilled bowls or even stemmed wine glasses.

Chilled Vegetable Soup

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 cup diced raw potato (about 1 medium to large potato)

1/4 cup chopped green onion

1/4 cup chopped celery

1 cup green peas, fresh or frozen

1 1/2 cups chicken broth, canned or homemade

1 cup half-and-half

salt and pepper to taste (use lemon pepper if you have it)

1/2 cup chopped parsley for garnish

Cook potato, onion, celery and peas, covered, in broth until tender. Puree in blender or food processor until very smooth. Add half-and-half and blend just enough to mix well. Season with salt and pepper; chill. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

Borscht

Makes 6 servings

4 medium-size beets, fresh-cooked or canned, with 2 cups of beet liquid

4 cups chicken or beef broth, canned or homemade

1 medium onion, chopped or 1/2 cup frozen chopped onion for convenience

2 cloves garlic, cut in half and pierced with wooden toothpicks

1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons cider vinegar, or more to taste

1/2 cup sour cream

about 3 tablespoons minced fresh dill (see note)

Grate cooked beets through coarsest blade of grater. Put in large saucepan along with beet liquid and broth (if you're short on beet liquid, add more broth). Add onion, garlic, salt and pepper into broth. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Stir in vinegar, pour into large bowl or individual bowls, and chill in refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

When ready to serve, remove garlic cloves and picks. Taste for seasoning, pour into bowls and garnish each with spoonful of sour cream and sprinkling of fresh dill.

NOTE: Do not substitute dried dill here. Most markets now carry fresh dill.

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