I may have mentioned before that one of my husband’s running gags is to say, upon being served a chilled appetizer or entree, “Dear, this is ice cold.” The man cannot get enough of this joke — never, ever tires of it. Even after returning from the kitchen with a second helping, he’ll repeat, “Absolutely ice cold.” He’s parodying his mother, using her intonation and New York accent. She uses the phrase in posh restaurants whenever she feels the urge to s/files/storyimages/back to the kitchen any menu item that is not hot enough to scald a welder. (She also trots it out in regard to every shower or bath she has ever taken outside her own home.)
But the truth of the matter is that most people, once they try them, love the cold soups of this world. And if novice cooks only knew that these soups are as easy as whipping up a smoothie in the blender or food processor, we’d all have a lot more friends inviting us over for dinner — and a lot less of the kind of scene I came across recently in a comic novel. The narrator invites a young woman for the first time to dinner at his apartment. As he puts it,
“I made blackened swordfish. Also blackened garlic bread, blackened green beans and blackened soup. The kitchen gadget I am best acquainted with is the smoke detector. For me, every recipe begins the same way: disable all alarms.”
If this guy had only had his own personal culinary consultant, the horror could have been avoided. But then also the humor. I guess in the /files/storyimages/the question is, which are you hungriest for — the tasty soup or the laugh? Sometimes it’s a genuine toss-up.
My real point is that gazpacho and vichyssoise are not the only chilled soups out there. Don’t get me wrong — I have never been one to go for those Scandinavian fruit soups as a main course or even as an appetizer. While I might appreciate fruit as an ingredient in a non-dessert, I never want it to be the mainstay. If I’m going to slurp down melons or blueberries, I’d rather have them with my coffee at the /files/storyimages/of the meal. And you can bet your bottom dollar that Seinfeld’s “Soup Nazi” did not have strawberry-tangerine puree on his menu. In fact, he may not have had any chilled soups, but I like to think he would have if he’d tasted any or all of the three below. The scientific truth of the matter is, the higher the temperature of food, the less flavor you’ll taste on your tongue. I have recommended a different grain to serve with each soup.
I first tasted chilled cucumber soup as an appetizer in a Persian restaurant in Atlanta nearly 15 years ago. Even though I loved everything else on the menu, I could easily have settled for a second bowl of soup as my entree and called it a night. It’s different from other cucumber soups I’ve tried in that it requires no broth. I tried duplicating it from the memory of how it tasted, but I never got it quite right till I found the recipe for it in Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East: Vegetarian Cooking. One of the tricks to this soup is not to make it in the blender. Another is not to substitute anything lighter than whole milk for the liquid. The lower- or no-fat milks t/files/storyimages/to make the texture of the soup foamy rather than smooth. I am so crazy about this soup that if I go for longer than a week without it, I start jonesing. Thus my habit is to make a new batch of it every Monday, which makes it remarkably easy to drink my lunch.
The second soup uses avocados, which, unlike cucumbers, are remarkably amen-able to food-processing. This one is the easiest of the three to whip up. Again, you don’t want to substitute something like skim milk for the cream or you’ll /files/storyimages/up with a bowl of foam. If you’re really ambitious, you can use homemade chicken broth that you’ve chilled and skimmed off in advance, but as the whole point of these recipes is their quickness and simplicity, why bother? The canned variety of broth melds perfectly with all of the other flavors.
The third entry, chilled curried carrot soup, is the only one of the three that requires a minimal amount of cooking beforehand. But even our blackened narrator above couldn’t mess up this kind of stove work, which is merely a matter of sauteeing and simmering. This soup is one of my favorites because it quells both the Thai and Indian flavor addictions I am afflicted with.