Cool off this summer with a refreshing bowl of soup! Most of us usually think of soup as a hot food to warm us up in cold weather, but soups can also be served chilled, and in the summer, cold soups start popping up on restaurant menus everywhere. Cold soups are usually light and nutritious and they're a great way to take advantage of fresh summer produce.
Spanish red gazpacho is the epitome of cold soups, made by puréeing tomatoes and other vegetables with garlic, olive oil and vinegar. There is also another variety of gazpacho called white gazpacho or ajo bianco, meaning "white garlic." White gazpacho is actually the original gazpacho, originating in the Andalusian region of Spain before tomatoes were introduced to the country. It uses inexpensive ingredients like olive oil, garlic, stale bread and almonds, which grow abundantly in that region of Spain.
Vichyssoise is another classic cold soup. Originating in France, vichyssoise is made by puréeing potatoes, leeks, heavy cream and chicken stock. Borscht is yet another example. Ukrainian in origin, this vibrant reddish purple soup is made with beets and can be served hot or cold.
Cold soups can be made from a wide variety of vegetables, so go ahead and experiment. They can be chunky or smooth, savory or sweet. Chilled cucumber soup is a delicious treat. Simply purée cucumber with Greek yogurt, garlic and dill. Carrots, zucchini, avocado and asparagus are other great choices for soup. You can even make sweet dessert soups, like chilled melon or berry soup.
My Chilled Corn Soup uses fresh, summer corn -- one of my favorite vegetables. I don't use any strong seasonings because I want the pure, sweet corn flavor to shine through. To infuse the soup with extra corn flavor, I make a quick corn stock by boiling the corn cobs in water. If you don't have time, you can skip this step and use vegetable stock, but the extra step is worth the effort. Because the natural starches in the corn thicken the soup, you don't need to add any cream, which keeps this soup healthy. I just stir in a little low-fat milk at the end to round out the flavors. To garnish, I use a homemade basil oil (see note at the end of the recipe), but you can also use fresh herbs (like basil or cilantro), chopped avocado, radish or sliced almonds. Serve the soup in a bowl, or for a fun presentation, serve it in shot glasses.
Chilled Corn Soup
Makes 4 servings
6 medium ears corn, shucked
1 tablespoon grapeseed or canola oil
1 cup chopped shallots
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ cup low fat milk (1% or 2%)
Cut the corn kernels from the cobs and set them aside in a bowl. To make the corn stock, place the corn cobs in a large pot and pour in 8 cups water. Bring the water to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes.
While the stock is simmering, make the garnish. Heat a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add ½ cup of the corn kernels to the dry pan and cook for a few minutes until browned and slightly charred. Remove the kernels and set aside for garnish.
Add the oil to the pan along with the shallots and garlic. Cook 3-4 minutes until the shallots are softened and then stir in the remaining corn kernels. Add 4 cups of the corn stock along with the salt. Simmer 10-15 minutes until the corn is cooked.
Remove the saucepan from the heat. Pour half of the mixture into a blender and open the lid to let the steam escape. Cover the opening loosely with a towel and purée the mixture until smooth. Pour it into a large bowl, then repeat the process with the remaining soup. Strain the soup through a chinois or sieve. Stir in the milk. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt as desired. Chill in the refrigerator before serving.
Garnish soup with charred corn and freshly chopped basil or basil oil. *
One serving: Calories 204; Fat 5.5g (Sat 1g); Protein 7.1g; Carb 37.3g; Fiber 3.1g
* Make homemade basil oil by blanching fresh basil leaves in boiling water and then shocking them in ice water. Purée the basil with oil in a blender and season with salt.