An easy but outstanding chilled soup for summer

Entertaining

Spicy and sweet, it goes well with a main-course salad

Sunday Gourmet

July 25, 2004|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,Tribune Media Services

When in doubt, serve soup" is a philosophy I've subscribed to since I began cooking in the late '60s. The reason for my steadfast devotion is the same today as it was when I was younger and learning my way around the kitchen: Soup is the quintessential make-ahead food, and when you are entertaining, nothing is more reassuring than a dish that is ready and waiting to serve to guests.

In the winter, warm, satisfying potages are mainstays at my table. I make them a day ahead and then reheat them at serving time. But in hot weather my soups are chilled so that my kitchen and I can both stay cool.

Several summers ago, on a warm and humid evening, I remember being enthralled by an icy cold soup a good friend served my husband and me. The color, a deep golden yellow, was what I noticed first. I dipped my spoon into the bowl and swooned over the curry-like taste. I tried unsuccessfully to identify the other flavors and finally asked my host to divulge the secret. "Nothing fancy," she replied and explained that she had simmered purchased chicken stock with a chopped onion and curry powder, then added bits of cream cheese and a touch of sweetened applesauce. The mixture was pureed in a food processor or blender and chilled until icy-cold. At serving time, she spooned a little apricot jam into bowls and then ladled the cold soup over. A sprinkling of chopped chives added distinctive visual contrast to the vibrant yellow field.

The flavors and texture of this soup were outstanding. The slightly hot and spicy curry was complemented by the sweetness of the applesauce and the apricot jam, while the cream cheese contributed to its velvety texture. I served the soup at a luncheon, along with a main course salad.

But it would work equally well as a first course to begin a summer supper. Or you could pour the soup into a Thermos and pack it in a basket (along with a small jar of apricot jam) to enjoy for a picnic.

Chilled Curry Soup

Serves 6

4 cups chicken broth (not reduced-sodium)

2 medium onions ( 3/4 pound total), peeled and chopped

2 tablespoons curry powder

1 tablespoon cornstarch

8 ounces cream cheese, broken into small pieces

2 tablespoons applesauce

salt and freshly ground black pepper

about 1/2 cup apricot jam or preserves

3 teaspoons chopped chives

Place broth, chopped onion, curry powder and cornstarch in a medium, heavy saucepan and whisk well to combine. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly. Cook, uncovered, 8 to 10 minutes until onions are softened. Remove from heat and stir in cream cheese and applesauce.

In a food processor or blender, puree mixture in small batches until smooth, taking care to handle the hot soup cautiously. Pour through a large strainer into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or, even better, overnight. After soup is well-chilled, taste and season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, spoon a heaping tablespoon of apricot jam or preserves into the bottoms of 6 shallow soup bowls. Ladle soup over jam in each bowl. Garnish each serving with chopped chives.

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