By KATHLEEN PURVIS
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- "Cold soup" sounds like an insult, doesn't it? Like something Marie Antoinette would have sniffed at disgruntled peasants -- "Let them eat cold soup."
Frankly, Marie, we'd be glad to. In July, eating cold soup is better than eating cake.
Just forget the phrase "cold soup" and think of the names:
Gazpacho. Vichyssoise. They even sound cool.
True, "borscht" doesn't sound all that great , but a bowl of it -- magenta-pink and chilled -- can brighten our outlook when the weather map shows nothing but red states.
Now, we realize some people have an illogical objection to eating soup that is cold. Insisting that soup must be hot makes about as much sense to us as refusing to taste any dessert that isn't chocolate or never nibbling on cold pizza. If it's good, it's good.
And in summer, it isn't just refreshing to eat something chilly. It's also the best time to make it. Nature is loading us up with these perfect ingredients: Juicy fruit. Luscious tomatoes. Tender potatoes. Bright leeks.
They beg to be used in ways that let their flavors stand out, but don't involve too much work.
Serves 6. From "La Cocina de Mama," by Penelope Casas (Broadway, 2005). Casas' version is smooth and doesn't include cucumbers. We liked it topped with a mixture of diced cucumber, red pepper and fresh tomato.
2 1/2 pounds very ripe tomatoes, cored and quartered
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced, plus more for garnish
1 (2-inch-thick) slice firm French-style bread, crust removed
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
1/2teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup mild extra-virgin olive oil
Place half the tomatoes, the garlic, pepper, bread, vinegar, salt, cumin (if using) and sugar in a food processor. Process until no large pieces remain. With motor running, add the remaining tomatoes. Gradually add the oil and process until smooth.
Pass through a food mill or strainer, pressing with the back of a ladle to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids.
Chill for several hours or overnight. Taste and add more vinegar or salt if needed.
Serve with chopped red pepper (plus chopped tomato and cucumber if desired).
Serves 10. Vichyssoise (vish-EE-swaz) has almost become a synonym for a puree of various vegetables. But we wanted the real thing. So we based this on chef Louis Diat's original, as quoted in "The Dictionary of American Food & amp; Drink," by John Mariani (Tucknor & amp; Fields, 1983).
1 medium onion
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter
5 medium potatoes (about 2 pounds, russets or Yukon Golds)
1 quart (32 ounces) chicken broth
1/2 to 1 tablespoon salt
2 cups milk
2 cups light cream
1 cup heavy cream
Minced fresh chives
Trim off and discard the root ends and green tops of leeks. Wash the white and pale green parts well, fanning layers under running water, then slice thinly. Peel and slice the onion.
Melt butter in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add leeks and onions and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until soft but not brown.
Peel and thinly slice potatoes and add to the leeks. Add the chicken broth and salt. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a fast simmer. Cook 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
Cool briefly, then puree potatoes, leeks and broth in a blender. Press through a sieve, discarding solids, and return to pot. Stir in milk and light cream. Bring to boil, then remove from heat and cool. Strain again.
Stir in heavy cream. Chill several hours or overnight. Serve sprinkled with fresh chives.
AVOCADO SHRIMP BISQUE
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped shallots
1/2 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cups chicken stock, divided
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon white pepper (optional)
Warm olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and cook several minutes, until softened. Add shrimp and cook, stirring and turning, just until pink throughout. Remove from heat. Remove shrimp and coarsely chop.
Cut avocados in half and remove pits. Remove skins and dice in large pieces. Place in blender. Add 1 cup chicken stock. Puree until smooth, stopping motor to stir with a rubber spatula if needed.
Pour avocado puree into a bowl. Whisk in olive oil and shallot mixture, remaining 1 cup chicken broth and cream. Stir in lemon juice and white pepper, if using.
Serve in bowls, topping each serving with several tablespoons chopped shrimp.
CHILLED SUMMER BORSCHT
Serves 4. From "A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen," by Jack Bishop (Houghton Mifflin, 2004).
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
8 medium beets (about 2 pounds), scrubbed and all but 1/2 inch of stems removed
1 small onion, halved
1/4 cup sugar
3 small fingerling or red potatoes, peeled
1 medium cucumber, peeled, halved, seeded and diced
Chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup sour cream
Place vinegar, beets, onion, sugar and 1 teaspoon salt in a large pot. Add 6 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until beets are tender enough to pierce easily, about 45 minutes.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer beets and onion to a bowl and set aside to cool. Pour liquid through a strainer lined with paper towels to remove grit. Set aside.
Skin beets by rubbing in paper towels. (The skins will pull off easily.) Cut in chunks. Working in batches, place chunks of beet and onion in a blender, then add some of the cooking liquid. Puree until thick and smooth. (How much liquid depends on how thick you like your borscht.) Combine all of the puree in an airtight container and refrigerate until chilled, at least 3 hours.
Place potatoes in a small saucepan, cover with water and season with salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender. Drain and let cool. Cut potatoes into 1/2-inch dice.
Place potatoes,cucumbers and dill in small bowls. Stir sour cream into borscht. Ladle into bowls and serve with garnishes for topping.
CHILLED MELON SOUP
Serves 6 to 8. From "The Best American Recipes, 2002-2003," edited by Fran McCullough and Molly Stevens (Houghton Mifflin, 2002). It sounds odd, but this is strangely satisfying and definitely refreshing.
3/4 cup whole blanched almonds (see note)
1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 large, ripe honeydew melon
1 cup white bread pieces, crusts removed
Salt, freshly ground white pepper
1 cup seedless grapes, halved
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
Puree the blanched almonds and 1/4 cup lemon juice in a blender until well chopped. Halve the melon, remove seeds and cut away from rind. Cut into chunks.
Working in batches, add melon chunks and bread to blender and puree, adding a little water if needed to make it puree. Combine all of the puree in a large bowl. Season well to taste with salt and white pepper. Add more lemon juice if needed.
Serve slightly chilled, garnished with grapes and toasted almonds and drizzled with creme fraiche.