Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Summer Soup

Really? Who wants soup in the summer?

Actually, chilled vegetable soup can be one of the most refreshing, simple meals around. I personally like to make a big batch of soup in the evening when it is cooler, chill and have it the next day for a fuss-free meal.

If you are a Green Hill Urban Farm CSA member, beets, fennel, mint and radishes are going to be familiar friends for a bit. I know plenty of people that are awfully frightened of some of those items. No need. If you know how to properly play with your food, you may begin to realize how incredibly refreshing late spring/early summer veggies can be.

I adore pureed beet soup with yogurt. It's super simple and hearty, but refreshing at the same time. Here's what you need for the soup:

1 small white onion
2 cloves garlic
2 stalks of celery
3-4 beets
1 1/2-2 quarts chicken or veggie stock (I tell you how to make chicken stock in previous posts -- http://thescrappygourmet.blogspot.com/2009/05/how-to-juice-chicken.html)
sprig thyme
tsp whole coriander seed
tsp whole cumin seed

Chop up the celery, garlic and onion. Also chop the beet stems -- no reason to throw them away. Reserve the greens from your beets. They make a fine side dish sauteed with some garlic.

Meanwhile, heat up some oil in a sauce pot. Sweat everything you just chopped on medium heat. While that's happening, chop your beets. Be prepared to stain your cutting board. That's just life with beets. If you wash up fast, it shouldn't stick around forever.

Once the onions are translucent in the pot, add your stock, then the chopped beets and thyme and turn up the heat to bring to a boil. Once it is boiling, turn it back down to a simmer.

Meanwhile, toast your whole cumin and coriander over medium heat. Once toasted, crush in a mortar and pestle or use a coffee grinder. Trust me, it is worth it to buy your spices whole like this. They last longer and taste better. Add the cumin and coriander to the soup. Go ahead and throw in a bit of salt at this point, too.

Alright, for the yogurt that you will top your soup with, you need:
6 oz plain yogurt -- thick Greek style is the best
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
few leaves mint, chiffonade

How do you make mint chiffonade? Stack the leaves, roll them into a cigar shape, slice thinly. There you have it.

Folks, I overdid the mint. Don't use this much.

Mix it all together. A fine alternative to mint, by the way, is dill.

After everything simmering in your soup is soft -- give it about 30 minutes or so -- go ahead and throw it all in a blender or food processor and puree. Add cold water if you need it. Chill soup, then serve with the yogurt on top, some good crusty bread and a salad.

The salad that I made was pretty simple, but seems fancy:

Shaved fennel and assorted radishes from Green Hill (shaved on a mandolin slicer)

Sliced apples, goat cheese, romaine

Theros olive oil and fig vinegar (you can substitute balsamic), salt and pepper.

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