Typically, I am in the mood for soup on a hot night. It is soothing and comforting, filling every inch of my body with so much warmth as it makes its way from my head to my toes, wrapping me in a blanket of intense flavors. But right now it is summer, and I still love soup. So how do I provide myself with the same sensation without feeling trapped by the heat?
It is so simple - cold soups! They have the exact same, yet total opposite effect - instead of a liquid fueled by fire, a chilled soup is bursting with a refreshing vibrancy, offering me so much energy through its cold spoonfuls of still layered flavors (don't forget - chilled soups are often still cooked to develop their integrity, they just work better at a cooler temperature or sometimes both hot and cold)! These soups wake me up from any slumber and whet my appetite for the rest of the meal or whatever hours are left in the day. Think of it like a savory cocktail or a mocktail - if you really wanted, you could drink it just like that! And you truly do not need a recipe to make it taste fantastic!
As soon as summer hits, I am ready to make gazpacho. In reality though, I want to make it all year round. It can be whipped up in seconds, and when tomatoes are in season, their flavor is more than enough to make a stellar soup. Personally, I like to roast my tomatoes to develop a little more depth. As this technique builds up the umami flavor, it will feel more reminiscent of tomato soup, both in taste and the smoother, less watery texture. But because it is served cold, it still feels like gazpacho. In addition to the tomatoes, I will also include some onions (red or white), cucumbers, and sometimes peppers too.
To finish it up, you can just season it with salt and pepper. I like a little acidity and spice as well, so I add two secret ingredients - smoked paprika and sherry vinegar, for the following three reasons. First, they are red, so they just boost the color without changing it. Second, as gazpacho is traditionally Spanish, I prefer to incorporate Spanish seasonings. Third, they add two additional flavors, and yes, they might be strong, but they compliment the sweet umami of the tomato perfectly.
Easy! Five steps. Clean and cut the vegetables. Roast them all on one sheet tray. Blend. Season. Chill. And if you want to elevate that smokiness for a fun twist, you can actually smoke the tomatoes after roasting, smoke the soup itself, or even just smoke the tomatoes without even roasting them. As long as you include the tomatoes, you will be good to go!
If you want to turn the gazpacho into an experience, or if you like to incorporate more elements into your soup, these next steps are very important. As tomatoes can be a little intense, though never in an unpleasant way, a creamy component does well in balancing out the acidity and keeping each bite fresh and exciting. For my pop-up last summer, to accompany my smoked gazpacho, I made a sherry crème fraîche - yes, this does have a little bit of sour to it, but the fat mixed with the tomatoes creates a beautiful combination as each component pulls from one another in harmony.
I also prefer to eat soup with texture. The action of filling the spoon and putting it to your mouth is otherwise very repetitive and mundane, and it should be drunk with a straw if there is nothing else to it. Plus, the crisp aspect will add even more flavor, and the surprise in each bite keeps you wanting more. I love to eat gazpacho with plantain chips. Again, they have that Spanish feel, but their nuttiness and saltiness do not take anything away from the tomatoes; they just blend right in for even more richness.
Fruit soups are such a smart way to use fruits that might be too soft, overripe, or just not that pretty. Their appearance does not do them justice, but their flavor is still strong, so they would be ideal in a blended form. All you really need to do is process them in the blender and add complimentary ingredients - more fruit, maybe some vegetables, a little vinegar or citrus, maybe a touch a salt, a little honey or maple syrup for sweetness, and even some spice. You do not want to add any herbs directly to the soup if you do want to have those flavors though, for they will turn the color an unfortunate brown.
For this version, I utilized melon, watermelon, and cucumbers to start. The fruits themselves were not super sweet, but I was going for a more savory dish, so I left them as is. I then included some pickled watermelon juice and pickled jalapeños for a little heat, as well as some lemon to perk it up a bit more.
Let's talk about the garnishes. I wanted this soup to be complex and different. Crunchy in various ways, creamy, and spicy. With pickled watermelon rind liquid in the soup, including the actual pieces was a no-brainer, and their little pop of juice would be really nice. Sunflower seeds have a creamy crunch to them and almost melt in your mouth, and their innate sweet earthiness would be a worthwhile addition. Having peeled the cucumbers to keep the color of the soup bright, I used the ribbons of skin to make some floral-like designs. Goat cheese pairs so well with fruit, acting as a perfect backdrop while still contributing its own uniqueness and melt-in-your mouth appeal too; it did not make sense to leave it out. And the spice - I used a Tunisian harissa oil at the end - its heat creeps up on you, so it does not overpower the other ingredients, only uses them as a vehicle to mellow out and then quickly make itself known at the very end, turning the soup into a firework of flavor.
If you want to keep it as uncomplicated as possible, just blend your favorite fruits together and drink up! Eat it for breakfast, as a snack, or even for dessert later in the day. Add a little alcohol and then it becomes a party drink too! And you don't have to wait for your fruit to start to turn in order to make this soup. But remember not to throw them out when they are not so attractive on the outside - it is what's on the inside that counts!
Avocado, Cucumber, and Yogurt Soup
This soup requires no cooking at all since the clean and fresh taste is what we desire. As it includes all the ingredients expected on a day of pampering yourself (maybe not the yogurt, but it is still pretty healthy!), you could think of this as your spa day soup. The avocado makes it creamy and decadent on its own, and the yogurt adds tang, so while it may seem rich in texture, you will feel light as a feather after polishing it off.
Like before, there are not many ingredients - cucumber (English or Persian and peeled so the skin does not leave any pieces), avocado, yogurt, lime, mint, parsley, salt, and pepper. Chop the cucumber into small pieces; blend first to create liquid and so everything else can become smooth without the addition of extra water (while the water won't take away too much flavor if you do need some, it makes sense to not add something with no flavor if it is not absolutely necessary). You might need to help the cucumber out in the beginning, pushing it down while the blender is off (or on if you like a little thrill as you avoid the blade!), but once it gets going, you will have no problem. Then, add everything else and adjust to your taste.
The yogurt can certainly be left out if you want this soup to be vegan, or you could switch it out for sour cream, crème fraîche, or mascarpone. And the herbs can be interchanged too! Replace or add in nasturtium, basil, oregano, cilantro, or even kale or spinach. Anything green works! And while I did not eat it with any textured ingredients this time, if I were to do so, I would probably add some pine nuts. Garlic croutons could work too, but they could get soggy quickly as the soup is thick; if you prefer that hard crunch from a crouton, add them in stages.
For a final touch, season with some flaky salt, lime zest, and a flavored oil, which will linger on your palate as the soup slides away, reminding you of its simple beauty that should never be taken for granted.
Vichyssoise (Potato Leek Soup)
Such a classic French soup. And it feels that way too when you eat it, because it is so rich and heavy, thanks to the cream. As I often do not have cream on hand, I have to settle for making soups without it. But guess what - you do not need it! A soup can still become thick and creamy with other ingredients, like potatoes, which we just happen to need for this recipe. Their starchiness creates a similar thick texture, and the flavor they impart remains more intense as they do not have to battle the fattiness of the cream. I will not say cream does not add an extra special finish, but you will not crave it after trying this method.
First, you will slice your leeks thin and sweat them in a bit of oil. Try to just use the bottom and light green parts as this soup should be a gorgeous, off-white color at the end. For the same reason, keep the heat low as you cook the leeks - you want to remove their raw notes without browning them. Separately, roast garlic in the oven, wrapped in foil and coated with a little oil. You can do cloves individually, but if you have a whole head, cook it all and save the extra for another dish; you know you will want more of it as soon as its scent starts to permeate through the kitchen and puts you in a heavenly trance. Remove the outer skin and cut a little off the bottom so you can easily squeeze it out when it is done. Roasting the garlic will caramelize it just a little, sweeten the flavor, and eliminate the bitterness - and it is a known fact that potatoes love garlic.
Next, deglaze with some white wine and let it cook off for just a second so the flavor is still prominent. Then, peel and dice the potatoes (I use either Idaho or Yukon Gold) and add them to the soup. Now cover with water, vegetable stock, chicken stock, or a nut milk ('a healthy heavy cream') and add a little salt. Cook for at least 30 minutes at a simmer so the potatoes completely break down - we want all that starch to come out. Make certain the potatoes are always completely submerged so that you have enough liquid to create a desirable thickness.
Once you feel the soup has developed enough flavor, you can take it off the stove and transfer it to a different container, along with the roasted garlic. Let it sit overnight to infuse even more. Plus, since you will be eating it cold, you want to blend it when it is cold so that you can guarantee the consistency is to your liking.
The following day, blend the soup - do not use all of the liquid right away as it might become too thin. Of course, you also might not have enough, and if that does happen, you can use some water, but because we added more while cooking, this should not be the case. Check the seasoning and add more salt as needed. If you like pepper, use white pepper so you do not ruin the look with black specks.
To serve! Potatoes, cheese, and herbs are a delectable combination. Not only did I include cottage cheese mixed with oregano, but I also toasted some challah and made a little gratinée with some Havarti cheese. A slice of toasted bread on the side would be great for dipping as well, along with a soft piece of brioche, baguette, challah, or sour dough for cleaning out the bowl at the end - this vichyssoise is definitely too delicious to leave any behind. I topped it off with some garlic chives for a little extra crunch and pop of color, and I drizzled some Herbs de Provence oil on top to bring out the earthiness even more. Truffle oil or shaved truffles are both trusted and appreciated garnishes for this type of soup, but if you want the potatoes and leeks to really shine, something a little more subtle works best.
If you are craving this soup on a cool winter night, have no fear - it is delicious served hot too. No matter what temperature, it is the true essence of comfort in a bowl.
Next time the weather is boiling outside and you need something cold and refreshing, try one of these soups instead of ice cream, iced coffee, or iced tea. You will certainly be eating healthier and enjoying so many more flavors, and you will feel just as satisfied and revitalized, if not more!