Swimsuit weather burgers.
(photo credit: Bloomberg News)
Honestly, I've never been a great fan of a bowl of cold summer soup, but I'll happily imbibe the same refreshing potion from a chilled glass. I like to see the colors and textures, and I enjoy the way the glass chills my hand while the contents are cooling off my palate. Serving cold soup in a glass makes it eminently portable, so you don't have to think twice before bringing a glassful outside to the porch or parking it right next to your computer while you work.
Throughout the Mediterranean, Europe and parts of Asia, many good-for-summer soups are based on dairy products like yogurt, sour cream or buttermilk, like Tarator with Walnuts (recipe follows), often made with the addition of cucumbers, scallions or radishes and fresh herbs like parsley and dill. Refreshing and often low-calorie (especially if made with buttermilk), dairy-based soups are good sources of calcium, and almost all cold soups are an easy way to get at least part of your daily vegetable quota right in a glass.
TARATOR WITH WALNUTS
A Balkan summer cooler adapted from the Hebrew cookbook Summer Foods by Suzi David. Serve very cold.
Makes 4 servings
3 cups yogurt (buffalo yogurt is recommended)
4 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 long, thin cucumber, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
Salt to taste
1 tsp. sugar or agave syrup, or more to taste
1/2 cup lightly packed mixed fresh dill and mint leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
Whisk together all of the ingredients, except for walnuts, blending well. Cover and chill thoroughly.
Just before serving, stir in most of the walnuts, and save the rest for garnish. Divide among four tall glasses and garnish with the remaining walnuts. Serve immediately.
MARTHA ROSE SHULMAN'S CLEAR BORSCHT
Adapted from a recipe from cookbook author and New York Times columnist Martha Rose Shulman, who notes that without the yogurt, the soup will be a deep red, while adding the yogurt will turn it dark pink.
Makes 4-6 servings
1 kg. fresh beets, peeled and sliced into thin half-moons
7 cups water
2 tsp. salt, or to taste
6 Tbsp. strained fresh lemon juice (from 2 to 3 lemons)
1 Tbsp. demerara sugar or honey
2 plump garlic cloves, cut in half lengthwise, green shoots removed
3/4 cup plain yogurt (optional, for serving)
1 small cucumber, peeled if desired, seeded, and cut in small dice
Chopped fresh dill or chives for garnish
Combine the beets, water and 1 teaspoon salt in a soup pot and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Add the lemon juice, remaining salt and sugar and continue to simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the garlic. Allow to cool, then cover and chill (you can speed this process by transferring the soup to a bowl and placing the bowl in an ice bath). Taste and adjust seasoning. Remove the garlic cloves.
Place 2 tablespoons yogurt, if desired, into the center of chilled soup bowls. Ladle in the soup. Garnish with diced cucumber and minced dill or chives, or top the soup with yogurt just before serving.
Advance preparation: This soup can be made a day ahead and will be good for 2 or 3 days.
GAZPACHO WITH A TWIST
Low in calories and fat (no cholesterol) and chock-full of antioxidant lycopene.
For a happy presentation, serve with ice cubes made with tiny fresh mint or sliced basil leaves frozen inside.
Adapted from my book Pashut Bari (Simply Healthy).
Makes 6 servings
1 kg. fresh tomatoes
1 red and 1 green pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp. or more coarsely chopped seeded, fresh, hot green pepper
1/3 cup coarsely chopped red onion
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2/3 cup tomato juice or vegetable juice like V-8
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 or more Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
To peel tomatoes quickly, make an X on the bottom of each and drop in a pot of boiling water for about a minute until the skin cracks and peels away. Remove with a slotted spoon, let cool for a few seconds and peel. Don't throw this water out - you can use it as a base to cook pasta or rice, or let it cool and pour it on your plants.
Cut the tomatoes into chunks and put them in a food processor. Add the peppers, onion and garlic and process coarsely. Remove half and pour into a serving bowl. Process the rest finely but not till watery, and add to the bowl.
Stir in the tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes. Use within 24 hours. Stir in a
1/2 cup or more of vodka if desired just before serving, and add a few ice cubes filled with tiny mint sprigs or sliced basil leaves. Pour into glasses and serve.