This time of year provides the perfect ingredients for soup.
Before you swoon just thinking about a steaming, simmering stockpot, think "chilled soup."
Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, melons and berries are just a few of the fresh vegetables and fruits that can be used in creating zesty beginnings or conclusions to meals, often without cooking. Many recipes call for just blending ingredients in a blender or food processor and letting the soup mellow in the refrigerator.
Tasty cold soups can be an alternative first course to a poolside party, a backyard barbecue or a sit-down dinner.
Margery Pacheco says she loves cold soups and likes to make them for her clientele at her restaurant, the Upper Crust in Wichita, Kan. "My favorite is vichyssoise," she says. And she loves cucumber with fresh dill. This weekend she will be cooking up -- and chilling -- a yellow pepper and white bean soup for a party.
Personally, Ms. Pacheco said, she doesn't like fruit soups as much as those made with vegetables. "This time of year, I don't think there is anything prettier than gazpacho made with all the ++ tomatoes that are available. It's a work of art."
In her book "Soup" (101 Productions), Coralie Castle says that cold soups should be refrigerated all day or overnight.
Ms. Castle notes that distinct flavors such as lemon, garlic, pepper and cumin can offend ordinary palates if used to excess. "Soup," she writes, "hews to a light touch."
Other tips from Ms. Castle:
* When substituting fresh herbs for dried, triple amounts called for.
* A bitter cucumber will ruin a soup. Taste it first.
* Correct seasonings in soups after the chilling.
* If a fruit soup is too syrupy or tart, a little light wine corrects the problem better than water.
* To reduce fat in soup recipes, low-fat sour cream or non-fat yogurt can be substituted for sour cream.
A note of caution: Some older recipes use raw eggs. Public health officials have advised against consuming raw eggs because of the danger of salmonella poisoning. Pasteurized eggs and pasteurized egg substitute, available in dairy and frozen food cases in supermarkets, are an acceptable and safe alternative.
Cold Beet Soup
1 can (16 ounces) beets, undrained
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) chicken broth
1 small white onion, cut in chunks
1 small lemon, peeled, sectioned and seeded
1 teaspoon dill weed
salt to taste (optional)
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream or non-fat yogurt
fresh dill, parsley and/or thin cucumber slices for garnish
In a blender or food processor container, combine beets, broth, onion, lemon, dill weed and salt to taste. Process until all 'N ingredients are pureed. Pour into refrigerator container and stir in sour cream or yogurt. Refrigerate several hours or overnight to blend flavors. Serve cold. Garnish with fresh dill, parsley and/or thin cucumber slices.
(Adapted from "Heartland Soups" by Chapter IA, PEO, Newton; 1618 N. Harvest Hill, Newton, Kan. 67114, $5.)
Icy Dilled Tomato Soup
Makes about 2 1/2 cups; serves 2
1 pound tomatoes, cored and quartered
1 tablespoon thinly sliced scallion
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 cup ice cubes
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
XTC 1 tablespoon mayonnaise thinned with 1/2 teaspoon water
In a blender, puree tomatoes and scallion with lime juice, sugar, ice cubes and salt and pepper to taste, and force the puree through a sieve set over a bowl, pressing hard on the solids. Stir in dill, divide soup between 2 bowls and drizzle some of the mayonnaise over each serving.
(Adapted from "The Best of Gourmet," 1992 edition, Random House, $28.)
Margaret's Garlicky Gazpacho
Serves 12 to 16
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and quartered
2 onions, peeled and sliced
2 cucumbers, sliced and seeded, peeled, if desired
6 tomatoes, peeled, halved and seeded
2 each green and yellow peppers, quartered and seeded
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 cup balsamic vinegar
2 cups vegetable juice cocktail
salt and pepper to taste
In a blender, combine all ingredients, except juice, salt and pepper. Blend well. Stir in juice, salt and pepper. Chill 4 hours (or longer) before serving. Garnish servings with croutons and plain yogurt, if desired.
(Adapted from "American Harvest Newsletter," summer 1994, Vol. 3, $3.75.)
Lemon Soup With Mint
1 large potato, peeled and chopped
2 1/4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons lemon juice
egg substitute equivalent to 1 egg
3/4 cup plain non-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons chopped mint
salt and pepper to taste
extra mint leaves or thinly sliced lemon for garnish
In a medium saucepan, simmer potato in broth and water until potato is tender, about 15 minutes. Puree potato, broth and water mixture in a blender or food processor. In a medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice and egg replacer. Gradually add 1 cup hot potato puree, whisking constantly. Transfer all puree back into saucepan and cook gently until slightly thick, about 10 to 12 minutes. (Do not boil.) Remove from heat; cool. Whisk in yogurt, mint and salt and pepper. Chill.
(Adapted from Vegetarian Times, July 1994, No. 302, $2.95.)
Strawberry Wine Soup
2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
6 tablespoons sugar
1 cup water
2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
1 cup dry white wine
1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
tiny lemon strips
1/4 cup sour cream or non-fat yogurt, optional
Combine strawberries, sugar and water in pot; simmer until berries are soft. Stir in cornstarch binder and cook and stir until thickened. Puree in blender. Add wine, lemon juice and lemon peel. Chill and season to taste with additional lemon juice, wine ,, and cognac. Garnish with tiny lemon peel strips.
Optional: Puree with 1/4 cup sour cream or non-fat yogurt.
(Adapted from "Soup," by Coralie Castle, 101 Productions, $3.95.)