As the temperature goes up, the last thing most people feel like doing is a lot of cooking. This time of year cries out for make-ahead dishes like cold soups. I’ve included several of my favorites below. They are great to begin meal or picnic and some can even be the meal! Being a wine guy, I’ve also added some wine recommendations. The old conventional wisdom was that one didn’t serve wine with soup. What’s with that? Why deny yourself a nice chilled glass of something special to complement these delicious bowl fulls!
ZUCCHINI SOUP WITH CINNAMON, CUMIN AND BUTTERMILK
This is a quick, and simple soup. It’s a wonderful base to which you can add all manner of things including cooked shrimp, sautéed mushrooms, spring peas, etc. I often will drizzle on a little fragrant nut oil as a garnish. Serve the soup chilled or at room temperature. We don’t always think about room temperature soups but it’s a nice variation on a warm day.
1 pound trimmed zucchini
2-1/2 cups rich chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon seeded and minced serrano chile, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1-1/2 cups good quality buttermilk
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Garnish: Chopped fresh cilantro or mint and lime or lemon wedges
Chop zucchini in large chunks. Add broth to a soup pot, bring to a boil and add zucchini. Reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until zucchini is barely tender but still bright green. Off heat and cool.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a small, non-stick frying pan. Add onion, chile, fennel, cinnamon and cumin, and sauté until onion is soft but not brown and spices are fragrant.
Put both mixtures into a food processor and pulse until well chopped but still with some texture. Pour into a bowl and stir in buttermilk and season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill for at least 2 hours. Serve garnished with a sprinkling of cilantro and added drops of lemon or lime juice to taste.
Recommended Wine: The tart buttermilk, fresh herbs and spices would go best with a crisp, clean chilled white wine with similar flavors such as a Sauvignon Blanc. Italian whites such as Pinot Grigio and Spanish whites such as Albarino would also work fine.
COLD CUCUMBER AND HONEYDEW MELON SOUP WITH CRAB
Serves 6 – 8
The combination of the cucumber and honeydew is an intriguing flavor combination and also visually interesting. Being a west coast boy, I think Dungeness crab is the best, but use whatever you like. I’ve used cream here to add richness to the soup. You could also leave it out or substitute buttermilk if desired. All are good. I recommend serving this in wide shallow bowls for best dramatic effect!
2 quarts roughly chopped peeled and seeded English (burp less!) cucumbers
1 quart roughly chopped and seeded ripe honeydew melon
3 tablespoons or so fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
Drops of hot sauce
10 ounces fresh picked crab meat (1 cup or so)
3/4 cup seeded and diced yellow and/or red tomatoes
1/2 cup diced firm ripe avocado
2 teaspoons each chopped fresh chives and tarragon (or basil)
Garnish: Fresh herb sprigs and/or chopped nasturtium flowers and leaves, if available.
Add cucumbers, melon, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and sugar to a food processor and puree until smooth. Strain through a medium strainer pushing down on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Stir in cream and season to taste with salt and hot sauce. You should end up with about 1 quart of soup. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Gently combine the crab, tomatoes, avocado and herbs. Season to taste with salt, hot sauce and lemon juice. To serve: Gently press crab mixture into a 1/4 cup or so measuring cup and unmold in the center of a large, flat soup plate. Ladle chilled cucumber mixture around and garnish with herbs and/or nasturtiums.
Recommended Wine: There is a bit of sweetness in this soup and you’d want to try to find a nice chilled white with a similar level. Look for a Chenin Blanc, Riesling or Gewürztraminer that has a bit of residual sugar in it.