Cool the day with chilled soups


Soup may be the last thing on your mind on a hot day. But a chilled, no-cook soup might just make the perfect light lunch or supper, and it’s an extra bonus when you don’t have to turn on the stove. The classic gazpacho, a refreshing chilled soup that originated in southern Spain, requires no cooking. You simply puree fresh ingredients — usually tomato, bell pepper, celery, onion and vinegar or citrus — until slightly chunky, and serve chilled. One of my favorite variations is to use half tomato and half watermelon in the gazpacho. What could be easier?

Here are a few more ideas on the theme, and since produce’s best flavors are retained when served raw, get the best ingredients you can find; preferably local and organic.

Cold curried tomato soup

This curried tomato soup, a variation of tomato gazpacho, first appeared in the 1961 edition of “The New York Times Cook Book” and is still a classic. Recipe by Craig Claiborne; makes 5 or 6 servings.

3 cups tomato juice

2 tablespoons tomato paste

4 scallions, minced

Salt to taste

Pinch of powdered thyme

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

Fresh ground pepper

Grated zest of 1/2 lemon

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Sugar

1 cup sour cream

Chopped parsley for garnish

In a blender container, mix all ingredients except the sour cream and parsley, adding sugar to taste. Chill. Before serving, blend in the sour cream, pour into serving bowls and garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

Chilled cucumber soup

By far the winner in the “anybody can make this” category, this refreshing soup takes about ten minutes from start to finish. Recipe from “Almost Vegetarian” by Diana Shaw; makes 2 servings.

1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 scallion, white part only, minced

1 cup low-fat cottage cheese

1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt

1/2 cup crushed ice

Minced fresh chives, dill and/or mint

In a food processor or blender container, blend cucumber, scallion, cottage cheese and yogurt until smooth. Add crushed ice; process again until mixture thickens. Distribute evenly between two serving bowls; top with herbs of choice and serve immediately.

Shrimp gazpacho

This can be made up to 6 hours in advance. Recipe from Bon Appetit magazine; makes 6 servings.

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 pound cooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined

3/4 pound large plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1/2 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 bunch green onions, chopped

1/2 bunch fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

1 large jalapeno chili, minced

4 1/2 cups tomato juice, chilled

Lemon wedges

Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add shrimp; cover mixture and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours. In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, green and red bell peppers, cucumber, green onions, cilantro and jalapeno. Add tomato juice, then stir in shrimp mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. To serve, ladle soup into bowls and garnish with lemon wedges.

Cold avocado and tomato soup

This is actually two soups that get served together in a colorful presentation. Note: Substitute vegetable stock for the chicken broth if you prefer a vegetarian version. Another recipe from Bon Appetit magazine; makes 4 or 5 servings.

2 ripe avocados, halved and peeled

3/4 cup buttermilk

10-ounce cucumber, peeled, halved, seeded and cut into pieces

2 large green onions (including tops), chopped

1/4 cup canned chicken broth

1 pound ripe tomatoes, halved, seeded and quartered

1 cup packed roasted red bell peppers

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves

Sour cream and fresh tarragon sprigs for garnish

Place first 4 ingredients in food processor; blend until smooth. Add 1/4 cup broth; season to taste with salt and pepper. Blend again; transfer soup to bowl, cover and refrigerate. Clean the food processor, then place tomatoes, bell peppers and sugar in processor; blend until smooth. Add tarragon leaves and season with salt and pepper. Blend 30 seconds; transfer to bowl, cover and refrigerate. (Soups can be made up to 4 hours in advance.) Ladle both soups simultaneously into each soup bowl. Swirl a design in the soups if desired. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a tarragon sprig; serve chilled.