Cold soups make a fine first course, a light summertime lunch or even a dessert. They can be a simple purée of fruit or vegetables and liquid or a more complex creation involving spices, wines and liqueurs. But even at their fanciest, cold soups are easy to make, requiring only a blender and some basic ingredients.
Some recipes use stock (most savory soups are better for it), but water works, too. And there is usually no meat in any of them, except if you choose one for a garnish. Most cold soups can be made vegetarian or vegan without much trouble.
The smooth and creamy soups are best made ahead of time, so that they have a chance to chill thoroughly. In fact, you can prepare them even a couple of days in advance. (Just hold off stirring in cream or yogurt until you are ready to serve.) The gazpacho-type soups can be made at the last moment; they should feel hearty and thick. You can purée them, chill them or serve as a beverage. A sweet fruit soup is a simple way to take advantage of an abundance of summer fruit.
A variety of fruits lend themselves to soup—all kinds of berries, stone fruits (peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, cherries) and melons (cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon). While fresh fruit is always best and is mandatory when using melons for soup, frozen fruit can yield excellent results. In fact, making soup is one of the best ways to use up the surplus crop that fills your freezer. Even canned fruit works well.
The vegetables of summer — asparagus, corn, zucchini, avocado, cucumbers and tomatoes to name a few —can be turned into cold soups. The simplicity really lets the flavor of the featured ingredient shine.
Tips on bringing out the best flavor for chilled soups:
Because a fruit or vegetable soup has relatively few ingredients, the taste of each one is easy to detect, so the quality of the fruit or vegetable is critical. Under ripe, overripe, off-flavored or badly freezer-burned ingredients will produce poor results. Shop at a farmers’ market, if possible, and pick vegetables that look ripe with bright colors and feel heavy for their size.
Cold dulls flavor; you’ll almost certainly want to add more herbs, salt and pepper and maybe more acidity. Season generously to start and don’t be afraid to add more just before serving.
Vegetables, like beets and fennel, must be cooked until thoroughly tender so they purée easily. Cook the main vegetable with a little onion for sweetness and garlic for depth. Also add spices at this point. Fresh herbs added just before puréeing provide another layer of flavor.
When melons are puréed, they turn watery. Soups based on them often require no added liquid. For most other fruits, liquid is required:, such as water, milk (whole, low-fat and skim are all good), cream, wine, fruit juice (for example, apple or white grape juice) or some combination of these.
As sweet as it is, when fruit is diluted with liquid, it usually requires some added sugar, honey or agave. Soups can vary from tart, perhaps for a first course, to very sweet for desserts.
The most common additions to cold fruit soups are cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cardamom. Add fat to most soups in the form of cream or olive oil. Fat not only helps carry flavors but also creates an emulsion for a smoother, more full-bodied soup.
Common sources of additional flavor are liquors, especially cognac and rum, and liqueurs-either a contrasting flavor such as Grand Marnier or Amaretto, or a brandy derived from the same fruit as the soup.
Garnishes include dollops of yogurt, sour cream, herbs and, for dessert soups, whipped cream and berries. Garnishes add texture and either reinforce the flavor (fennel fronds for fennel soup) or complement it (tangy sour cream and dill for earthy beet soup).
A blender’s tapered shape draws the ingredients to the blade, where they’re puréed evenly and finely. Keep the blender running for two minutes even after the soup looks puréed to be sure all the spices and herbs are pulverized.
A safety tip: When blending hot liquids, never fill the blender jar more than half full. Leave the fill hole cap ajar, cover the lid with a cloth, hold the lid on firmly and start the blender on low before increasing it to high.
Two-Color Melon Soup
- 1 cantaloupe, peeled, seeded and cut up
- 1 small honeydew, peeled, seeded and cut up
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1/4 cup white wine, divided
- 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
- Prosciutto or another cured ham, for garnish
Place the cantaloupe, orange juice, half the white wine and half the sugar in a blender or food processor and purée. Set aside in a separate bowl.
Place the honeydew, lime juice, remaining wine and remaining sugar in a blender or food processor and purée. Set aside in a separate bowl. Refrigerate both purées separately.
To serve, place the purées into separate pitchers or measuring cups. With one in each hand, simultaneously pour the two purées down opposite sides of each serving bowl, the purees will remain separate while being served and eaten. Garnish with sliced proscuitto.
Carrot Soup with Herbs
6 to 8 servings.
- 4 cups (or 1-32-ounce box) reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 4 cups (about 1 pound) ready-to-use baby carrots
- 1 medium thin-skinned white or Red Bliss potato, scrubbed and quartered
- 1 large handful whole fresh dillweed sprigs (including stems), plus 2 tablespoons chopped dill weed leaves (fine leaves only) for garnish
- 1 small handful whole fresh chives, plus 1 tablespoon finely chopped for garnish
- 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Herbed yogurt garnish, recipe below
Combine the chicken broth, carrots and potato in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Lay the whole herbs over the vegetables and bring the mixture to a boil. Adjust the heat so the broth boils gently and cook, uncovered, for 13 to 15 minutes or until the carrots and potato are tender when pierced with a fork. Don’t undercook or the soup will not be as smooth as it should.
Set aside until cooled slightly. Using a fork, lift off and discard all the herbs. Using a slotted spoon, remove the carrots to a food processor or blender and remove the potato to a bowl to cool. Strain the broth and reserve. When the potato is cool enough to handle, peel off and discard the skin. Add the potato, butter and enough broth from the saucepan to the vegetables to facilitate processing or blending. Process or blend until completely smooth, stopping and scraping down the sides as needed; a processor will take longer and the soup will not be quite as smooth. Pour the mixture into a bowl. Cool slightlyand add salt and pepper to taste.
Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 48 hours before serving. If desired, thin the soup with a little water and adjust seasoning before serving.
To serve, add several teaspoons of the herbed yogurt to the center top of each bowl of soup. Partially swirl in the mixture. If desired, garnish servings with small sprigs of dill weed.
Herbed Yogurt Garnish
Stir together 2/3 cup regular or low-fat plain (unflavored) yogurt, 2 tablespoons finely chopped dill weed and 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives in a small bowl. Taste and add salt if needed. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours (so the herbs can infuse the yogurt) and up to 48 hours.
Fennel-Grapefruit Soup with Lemon Olive Oil
The fennel-grapefruit soup can be refrigerated overnight. Olive oil pressed or infused with lemon is available at most supermarkets and specialty food stores.
- 2 tablespoons lemon flavored olive oil, plus more for garnish
- One 1-pound fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced, plus chopped fennel fronds, for garnish
- 3 cups water
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh grapefruit juice, strained
- Pinch of sugar
In a medium saucepan, heat the 2 tablespoons of lemon flavored olive oil. Add the sliced fennel and a pinch of salt, cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring a few times, until the fennel is softened, about 10 minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat until the fennel is very tender, about 20 minutes.
Working in batches, puree the fennel soup in a blender until smooth. Transfer the soup to a medium bowl and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.
Just before serving stir the grapefruit juice into the fennel soup. Add the sugar to the soup and season with salt. Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with a little lemon olive oil and chopped fennel fronds and serve.
Cool Tomato Soup
- 2 1/2 pounds plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
- 3 cups water
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 onion, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- Pinch of granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup fat free half & half
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar
- 2 tablespoons chopped dill
In a medium saucepan, combine the plum tomatoes with the water, tomato paste, onion, garlic, oregano, crushed red pepper and granulated sugar. Simmer over moderate heat, stirring a few times, until the tomatoes are very tender, about 20 minutes. Add the half & half and simmer for 1 minute.
Puree the soup in a blender and pass it through a coarse strainer into a medium bowl. Season with salt and black pepper. Refrigerate the soup until cold, about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°F. Spread the cherry tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, confectioners’ sugar and a large pinch of salt. Bake for about 10 minutes, until the skins start to wrinkle. Transfer the tomatoes to a bowl and toss with the dill. Let rest at room temperature until ready to serve the soup.
Ladle the cold soup into bowls, garnish with the roasted cherry tomatoes and serve.
Chilled Corn Soup with Roasted Chilies
4 to 6 servings
- 10 ears sweet corn
- 2 medium onions
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, olive oil, or butter
- 1 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
- 1 medium potato
- 4 cups water or broth
- Roasted jalapeno (or any spicy chili), diced
Using a large hole grater over a very large bowl, grate off the corn kernels. Use the blunt side of a knife blade to scrape remaining liquid and corn bits into the bowl after you grate each cob. Set aside the raw corn puree.
Chop onions. In a large pot heat oil or butter over medium heat. Add onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion wilts, about 3 minutes.
Meanwhile, peel and chop the potato. Add potato and water or broth to the pot. Bring to a boil. Cook until onions and potatoes are very soft, about 10 minutes. Add corn. Cook until heated through, about 2 minutes.
Roast chilies in the broiler or on a grill. Set aside until cool and remove the skin. Be sure to use gloves when handling hot chilies.
Puree with an immersion blender or in a blender or food processor (do this in small batches to avoid splashes and burns).
Chill the soup thoroughly.
Add salt to taste. (Do this at the temperature at which you plan to serve the soup; chilled soup will need more salt than hot soup because cold dulls flavor.)
You will need to add a fair amount of salt, if you used water as your base liquid. Keep adding salt, about 1/4 teaspoon at a time, and tasting until you notice the corn flavor coming through.
Garnish with roasted sliced jalapeno chilies before serving.
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