Cool as a Cucumber Soup!

Summer, time of Italian ice, ice cream, Popsicles, tomato sandwiches, salads full of fresh cold veggies and cucumber soup!  Really, cucumber soup on a hot summer day is cool on your palate and fairly healthy. And we have had a lot of hot days of late; so you are due for a refreshing cool soup. It is also a perfect use for three cukes straight from your overburdened cucumber vines.  Or three cucumbers from a produce stand.  The fresher the cuke the better your soup will be.

This recipe came out of a magazine a couple of decades ago, one of my sisters served it once and I got the recipe from her and have been so pleased with its flavor and texture every time I make it.  I have made raw cucumber soups and they are enjoyable, but this is hands down my favorite cucumber soup.  If you don’t like dill leave it out. I have done that; it is more delicate, and you can then really taste the hint of lemon in the soup.  Once I made it with vegetable broth for a vegetarian and it was excellent that way too.

 

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Chilled Cucumber Soup

Ingredients:

3 medium cucumbers

1 small onion

2 Tbsp. butter

1 Tbsp mild olive oil

3 scallions

zest of half a lemon

1/2 cup decent white wine

2.5-3 cups good quality chicken broth

1 cup sour cream

2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill

Directions: Take 3 medium cukes, peel them, cut in half at the middle point and then in half again from the stem to end so they are like short cucumber canoes. Then scoop out most or all of the seeds.  Shred the cuke canoes into a big bowl using the biggest hole size on your shredder.  Drain in a strainer but save the juice to add to the soup along the way.

Cut up one small onion: 1/3 cup or so.

Cut up 3 scallions

Melt 2 tbsp of butter and a tbsp olive oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan.  Add the onion, cook 1-2 minutes and then add the shredded cuke.  Cook 5 min, add the scallions, stir, then add chicken broth to cover; 2.5 to 3 cups.

Add ½ cup dry white wine, the reserved cuke juice and the zest of ½ a lemon (1 tsp).  Sometimes if I don’t have an open bottle of white wine, I use vermouth; it works well in a pinch.

Heat until nearly boiling, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook 20-25 minutes.  Let cool at least 30 minutes and puree.  You can use an immersion blender, a regular blender or a food processor.  The boat motor blender (immersion) is much more fun and easier.  I like to leave a bit of it unblended, so it isn’t really smooth like a true cream soup.  Add 1 cup sour cream and 1 tsp sea salt, whisk well.  I use light sour cream; Daisy is my favorite brand.   Add 1-2 tbsp chopped fresh dill.  Stir well.  Chill 4 to 6 hours.

I often chill the bowls if it is a hot day and so ice-cold soup goes into equally cold bowls.  You can garnish with a dill frond or not. Or a small dollop of sour cream can be pleasant.

The photo above is from a past family dinner party.  It makes quite a bit; enough to serve 6-8 people.

Chilled cucumber soup; it’s a great starter to a meal on a hot summer evening or for a light lunch pair it with a salad or some grilled fish.  Yummy!

Originally published July 2014.

Cooked but not pureed or enriched with sour cream…gotta cool a while!
Time to hit the fridge!

Salad Nicose; Classic Summer Supper Salad

This dish is a family favorite in those steamy summer months of ripe tomatoes and hot days which lead to evenings that feel too warm for a big heavy meal. This salad is composed of several vegetables cooked until just barely done, bathed in a simple EVOL vinaigrette and topped with oil packed tuna. Fresh, satisfying and very healthy in that trendy Mediterranean way I keep reading about. This salad is my daughter’s favorite from her teen years; she is 30; I have been making it for decades! My mother loved it too. My guy enjoys it as well. I don’t make it except in summer as the fresh produce is critical to the flavor especially the tomatoes.

First, you start with fresh ripe summer tomatoes, crisp bell peppers, tender zucchini and high-quality small potatoes, preferably red organic ones and the oil packed tuna of your choice. Do not make it with water canned pallid tuna, a total waste of time in my opinion. You can lay it on a bed of romaine leaves or leave off the lettuce, great either way. I use fancy olives sometimes, but inexpensive small canned pitted ones work really well. Please do make the homemade vinaigrette; it is very simple and very effective in creating the perfect flavor of the salad. If you hate one of the ingredients; leave it out. I do want to mention that many recipes use wedges of hard boiled eggs but my version doesn’t usually have that. Feel free to add them in!

Before I add the tuna….

Angie’s Salad Nicose

Ingredients

2 lbs of small red potatoes

2 medium peppers; one red, one green, cut into vertical strips and halved across the middle.

1 medium zucchini sliced in 1/2 inch half rounds

1/2-2/3 lb fresh green beans, tips removed, if long cut in half

2/3 of a 14 oz can of small pitted olives, drained

1 large ripe tomato cut into chunks

2 cans oil packed tuna fillet

Vinaigrette
I used one of those good Seasons vinaigrette jars to mix my dressing in; I know….terribly old fashioned but they do work well!

Fill jar with red wine vinegar to the water line (second line from bottom) (abut 1/4 cup)

Fill rest of way to oil line with EVOL (I often do half EVOL and half mild olive oil) (bout 2/3 cup)

Then add the following:

1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp. French Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp sea salt; rounded

ground black pepper to taste – cap it and mix it up well

Salad directions

Put the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with water and boil on high until just tender. Whie, they cook chop the individual veggies. Steam each kind individually in a pot with 1/2-inch water until just tender (3-5 min) Taste one to be sure., do not overcook them! Carefully drain each cooked veggie and dump gently into a big bowl. On top of each other. Make the vinaigrette as you do the cooking so it can stand 5-10 minutes. When the potatoes are done drain them and set on your cutting board to cool; not touching each other. Peel them and slice thickly. If they are oval, I sometimes just cut into two thin halves, cutting along the long side. Put them in the bowl you will serve the salad in. When all hot potatoes are peeled pour 1/3 of the vinaigrette over them and carefully turn with a big spoon to coat well. They should still be quite warm when you do this step. The dressing soaks into the warm potatoes; doing it warm is very important to the flavor. Put the cooked and drained veggies in there on top. Add the tomato chunks, tuna and olives. add another third of dressing and gently turn the salad to mix well. Adjust the salt/pepper and dressing amount. Serve on a plate or shallow bowl on a bed of torn up crisp romaine leaves. Enjoy!

Refreshing…Cool as a Cucumber Soup!

Summer, time of Italian ice, ice cream, Popsicles, tomato sandwiches, salads full of fresh cold veggies and cucumber soup!  Really, cucumber soup on a hot summer day is cool on your palate and fairly healthy. And we have had a lot of hot days of late; so you are due for a refreshing cool soup. It is also a perfect use for three cukes straight from your overburdened cucumber vines.  Or three cucumbers from a produce stand.  The fresher the cuke the better your soup will be.

This recipe came out of a magazine a decade or two ago, one of my sisters made it once for me and I got the recipe then and have been so pleased with it’s flavor and texture.  I have made raw cucumber soups and they are enjoyable but this is hands down my favorite cucumber soup.  If you don’t like dill leave it out. I have done that; it is more delicate and you can then really taste the hint of lemon in the soup.  Once I made it with vegetable broth for a vegetarian and it was excellent that way too.

cucumber soup

Cucumber Soup

Take 3 medium cukes, peel them, cut in half at the middle point and then in half again from the stem to end so they are like short cucumber canoes. Then scoop out most or all of the seeds.  Shred the cuke canoes into a big bowl using the biggest hole size on your shredder.  Drain in a strainer but save the juice to add to the soup along the way.

Cut up one small onion: 1/3 cup or so.

Cut up 3 scallions

Melt 2 tbsp of butter and a tbsp olive oil in a large heavy bottomed sauce pan.  Add the onion, cook 1-2 minutes and then add the shredded cuke.  Cook 5 min, add the scallions, stir, then add chicken broth to cover; 2.5 to 3 cups.

Add ½ cup dry white wine, the reserved cuke juice and the zest of ½ a lemon (1 tsp).  Sometimes if I don’t have an open bottle of white wine I use vermouth; it works well in a pinch.

Heat until nearly boiling, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook 20-25 minutes.  Let cool at least 30 minutes and puree.  You can use an immersion blender, a regular blender or a food processor.  The boat motor blender (immersion) is much more fun and easier.  I like to leave a bit of it unblended so it isn’t really smooth like a true cream soup.  Add 1 cup sour cream and 1 tsp sea salt, whisk well.  I use light sour cream; Daisy is my favorite brand.   Add 1-2 tbsp chopped fresh dill.  Stir well.  Chill 4 to 6 hours.

I often chill the bowls if it is a hot day and so ice cold soup goes into equally cold bowls.  You can garnish with a dill frond or not. Or a small dollop of sour cream can be pleasant.

The photo above is from a past family dinner party.  It makes a big jar; enough to serve 6-8 people.

Chilled cucumber soup; it’s a great starter to a meal on a hot summer evening or for a light lunch pair it with a salad or some grilled fish.  Yumm!

Originally published July 2014.

Lemony and Refreshing Quinoa Salad; Perfect on a Hot Summer Evening

I made some lemony quinoa salad the other day, the same one I posted a few years stuffed in tomatoes.  This time I went easy and just mixed in chunks of ripe homegrown tomatoes and it was very tasty as a side dish to a meal.  Kept well in my fridge for the 2 more days it took me to finish it. So easy to make too.  You could even make it the day before; just add the tomatoes before serving. So I am posting it here so you can try it; one caveat; only use local tomatoes.  Do NOT make this with those pale imitation supermarket tomatoes. It is not possible to create something tasty if you start with poor quality ingredients and those plastic flavored “tomatoes” just will not work in this salad.

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Lemony Quinoa Salad

Makes four servings.

Ingredients:

½ cup regular quinoa, (not red or black)

1 cup water

½ a veggie bullion cube

2/3-3/4 cup small dice burpless cucumber

½ cup small dice zucchini

1/3 cup small dice red onion

2 tbsp. fresh mint or parsley, diced finely

1 lemon

3 tbsp.  EVOL (extra virgin olive oil)

1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

Sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste.

2 large ripe tomatoes cut in chunks

Directions

Put the quinoa in the water.  If it doesn’t say rinsed, you should put it in a strainer and rinse it for a minute to get off any coating – which can be bitter.  Add the half bouillon cube, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook 15 minutes.  Let cool to room temperature before continuing.

Place the cooled quinoa in a mixing bowl.  Add in the finely chopped veggies and stir.  Sprinkle the fresh herbs on top; even fresh chives chopped pretty fine or julienned basil will work great.   Use a zester or a very fine grater and get as much zest off the lemon (wash the lemon first); you can zest right into the quinoa mixing bowl.  In a small mixing bowl put the juice of that same lemon, the EVOL and red wine vinegar.  If you have more than 3 tbsp of lemon juice add a bit more EVOL and whisk to combine; add in up to ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp freshly grated black pepper.  Pour ¾ of it over the quinoa and veggies and stir to combine.  Taste and adjust seasoning and add the rest of the dressing if it is needed.  Chill at least 30 minutes. Add the chunked tomato and serve.

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This is a great side dish or, if you have a vegetarian visiting, it is a substantial main dish choice as quinoa has a lot of complete protein in it.

So simple but the combination of fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, red wine vinegar and EVOL makes a great salad dressing.  Do not cook the zucchini – if it is fresh and tender it is fantastic raw in a salad.  If you can’t get one of those European cucumbers use a small regular one and peel the skin off it before dicing. If the seeds are large do not use the center with the seeds.  Your salad will not be as pretty if there are sloppy cucumber seeds in it.

Quinoa salad will keep a few days in the fridge, if it lasts that long! Try it with different fresh herbs: it just won’t taste the same without the fresh summer veggies.  I try to eat seasonally and this is definitely a summer treat!

Refreshing Gazpacho Soup: Ole Tomatoes!

Hot Hot summer days mean I need a cool soup recipe. One with minimal cooking: that is easy and tasty.  Plus I want to use some of my garden produce.  This classic Spanish soup called gazpacho is perfect for all of that and my family loves it. It absolutely must be made with ripe summer tomatoes, never ever attempt it with any less than the best vine ripened fruit.  You can get great tomatoes at farm stands, farmer’s markets and even the grocery store; look for the grown local label for the best flavored tomatoes. Please do not use greenhouse tomatoes grown far away and shipped while not really ripe. Your soup will not be full of tomato flavor and it will taste disappointing.  These ripe locally grown tomatoes are vital to the flavor of gazpacho.

I make my gazpacho in the blender but I believe a food processor works okay too.  No heat,  minimal fuss.

My version allows you to add chopped raw veggies in the amount you prefer just before you slurp it down. I prefer its fresh pure flavors to those soulless restaurant versions that are gelatinous and crammed full of a wide assortment of chunked veggies…uggh.

I once had a version of gazpacho similar to mine in a Philadelphia restaurant made with golden yellow tomatoes which was beautiful looking and quite tasty too.

Warning: you do need to peel the tomatoes but that goes pretty fast.  I heat about a wide sauce pan filled 3 inches deep with water to a boil and pop the ripe tomatoes in for 2 to 3 minutes. I put in 4 at a time; done in a couple batches.  Let them cool a bit and then peel off the skin and cut out the blossom end (top) and they are ready to use.

One more important instruction: gazpacho HAS to chill really good; make it early in the morning to serve as a late lunch or better yet; for supper. The colder the better, I actually put my soup bowls in the freezer for 15 or 20 minutes and yank them out just before filling and serving this cold summer delight.

It is a flexible recipe; depends on the size of your tomatoes. This should make close to 60 ounces or just shy of 2 quarts; cut in half if you don’t want too much. But you will wish you had made more…I promise!  It will keep 3-5 days in the refrigerator.

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tomato juice for thinning the soup

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skinned tomatoes ready for soup making

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I am about to press the puree button!

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Still in blender, just pureed soup.

Summer Chill Gazpacho

Soup ingredients:

8 to 10 ripe fat tomatoes (large ones)

About ¼ cup EVOL; best you can afford

2 slices white bread (GF if you have celiac)

1 lemon

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1 to 1 ½ tsp. sea salt

Toppings:

2 large tomatoes diced, heirloom if possible

1 cup diced burpless cucumber

2 scallions, sliced thin, green and white parts

Directions: peel the tomatoes as described above.  When I peel them I do it over a bowl to capture the juices and seeds. I save them, strain off the seeds and I add back the juice as needed to thin the finished soup.    Put 4-5 tomatoes in the blender; add a slice of bread broken up, 2 tbsp. olive oil, the juice of half a lemon and one garlic clove.  Put the lid on and blend well.  Note: do not fill the blender more then ¾ full. Taste; add salt; ½ to ¾ tsp.

Repeat entire process with the rest of the ingredients and thin with reserved tomato juice – it should be thick but not porridge thick.  Mix the two batches together in a big glass bowl; never metal because of the acidity of tomatoes and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Then chill it at least 3 to 4 hours.

Serve with bowls of toppings to sprinkle on top of the thick soup; diced ripe tomatoes, scallion slices and cucumber ( preferably burpless) cut in small dice.  If you want to guild the lily, top with croutons (gf ones if you have celiac), I don’t bother.

 

Note: gluten free bread often gives a slightly different texture to the soup; somewhat less smooth in the look of it and the taste.  It’s okay as it doesn’t affect the flavor: it still is delicious and a bowl of it is so very refreshing on a hot day.  Serve with a sandwich and you have a perfect summer lunch.

I used some chunks of gf sourdough as my croutons in this bowl. Used zucchini not cucumber in topping.