It's a welcome chill in the summertime

August 04, 2004|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,SUN STAFF

Smoothie junkies of Maryland: It's time to slow down.

Summer's here, fresh fruit abounds, and rather than slurping from a straw on the go, try sitting at the picnic table and spooning something more sophisticated - a chilled berry soup.

Summer is the prime time for cold soups. And, after all, gazpacho does get old. A soup made from seasonal fruit can be a welcome change.

"I love the summer," said James Peterson, author of Splendid Soups (John Wiley, 2000, $45). "I don't really eat fruit the rest of the year. I'm not drawn to it."

Peterson's tome includes soup recipes from around the world, including six berry-soup suggestions.

"The only place I remember finding berry soups consistently was in Scandinavian recipes," he said. "They have wonderful fruit in the summer. The long summer days, the high sun mean the fruit is incredible."

And, while Baltimore summer days may not last until midnight, this is the season of fresh fruit.

"It is the time of the year to take advantage of the bounty of anything in season," said Cindy Wolf, chef-owner of Baltimore's Charleston and Petit Louis Bistro, who is emphasizing fresh fruit in her summer menus this year.

Berry soups are healthful. "The main thing about berries is they have exceptional antioxidants," said Carolyn Katzin, a nutritionist based in Los Angeles. "In the body we need a balance of oxidants and antioxidants. There is a theory that aging and the degenerative process are oxidant processes. If we had enough antioxidants, we would delay the process. But that is kind of overstating it."

For those who care, berry soup also is Atkins friendly. "They are really very low in carbohydrates. They are not simple carbohydrates; they are complex carbohydrates that are better for you," Katzin said, adding, "I hate to feed into that carbohydrate fear."

Fruit soups are shockingly easy to make. Many recipes don't require a stove or an oven, a welcome relief on hot summer evenings.

There are four basic ingredients: fruit, fruit juice, a sweetener and a milk-based product (yogurt, sour cream or creme anglaise, for example) to thicken it.

The fruit does not need to be fresh, although purists advise picking wisely at the farmers' market.

"You want the fruit to be soft but not bruised or too soft," said Wolf. "A happy medium between rock-hard and not mushy. You should smell a perfume." Keep in mind the fresh stuff makes a pretty garnish.

However, frozen fruit will do in some recipes. It is cheaper and there isn't a huge difference in flavor, said Doug Zerfas, the executive chef at the Stone Mill Bakery in Lutherville.

But at the bakery, Zerfas uses only fresh fruit for his soup. He punches in to work at 3 a.m. and makes between 25 quarts and 30 quarts of soup.

He began making his popular fruit soups three years ago. "When I started the first year, I couldn't get people to look at it," he said. "Once people tried it, they were flabbergasted. You are getting something that is nutritious and soothing and chill." Now some customers buy 10 containers of his soup at a time.

Zerfas uses tupelo honey to sweeten his soup and mixes the ingredients in an ice-cream machine for 30 minutes to chill the soup properly.

He realizes most home cooks don't have this type of equipment handy in the kitchen. "A lot of time I tell people to take the soup and freeze it," he said.

This can be the only mildly tricky step in the berry-soup-making process. It is important to cool the soup to the right constancy - cool and crisp, but not a frozen block. Then, before serving, chill the individual bowls by icing them.

Stone Mill Bakery Cold Mango Soup

Makes 10 servings

1 1/2 pounds mangoes

1 teaspoon tupelo honey

4 ounces yogurt (Emmi or Stony Brook Farm)

1 cup fresh mango fruit juice

Peel and dice the mangoes. Place the fruit in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes until it has a nice chill on it (but it will still be soft enough to be pureed by a food processor).

Place chilled fruit, honey and yogurt in food processor. Add juice slowly as mixture is processing.

Process for 2 minutes to 5 minutes, or until mixture becomes a velvety sauce.

Serve immediately in chilled bowls.

-- Doug Zerfas, executive chef at the Stone Mill Bakery

Per serving: 68 calories; 1 gram protein; 0 grams fat; 0 grams saturated fat; 17 grams carbohydrate; 1 gram fiber; 1 milligram cholesterol; 10 milligrams sodium

Hazelnut and Fresh Raspberry Soup

Makes 6 servings

1 1/2 cups milk

6 tablespoons hazelnut praline paste (see recipe)

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 1/2 pints raspberries (or as many as you want)

In a 2-quart mixing bowl, slowly whisk the milk into the praline paste until the mixture is completely smooth. Whisk in the heavy cream. But don't beat for too long or you'll end up with whipped cream. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Bring praline cream and raspberries to the table. Ladle praline cream into the bowls and sprinkle over raspberries.

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