Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Of Heat, Dog Days, and Cucumber Gazpacho.

I never think it will happen, yet every single year it does. I always think that it will be different, yet strangely it never is. I usually make a solemn vow that I will appreciate it and soak it up, but come August, that vow goes the way of the New Year's Resolution come February. What am I talking about, you ask? The heat of summer - that brutal, crushing, lung-filling heat that in my area of the world comes with unprecedented humidity.

"First of all, I hate wearing white. Even when I give white a chance, I'm not fooling anyone — I've always been a Rizzo, not a Sandy..." says Diablo Cody, in perhaps the finest piece of summer journalistic op/ed ever crafted. (Really, go read it, I'll wait.) I go further, since I really detest such warm weather favorites such as shorts or *gasp* dresses/skirts, so as the dog days of summer wear on, I find myself wanting to hole up in my a/c inspired house, happily jean-clad, and baking like it's 20 below zero.

Part of my disdain is that despite the humongous bounty of the garden, market, and this year my CSA, I have absolutely no appetite. Even a brisk walk (resulting in the dripping dampness of said non-shorts and non-dresses) can not conjure the slightest hint of hunger, yet due to my self-imposed job of kitchen cohabitation, I feel that I must keep up with my three squares per day. I know other food-people know what I'm talking about. I have to find excuses to make all of the interesting stuff I read about, and like I've said before, I'm the one firmly rooted in the Live To Eat column of human beings.

Enter cold soup. Before the oppressive heat of summer, and for the second installment of my Vegan Mondays, I made a cold Avocado Cucumber Soup. While I've eaten all manners of cold soups in restaurants, I tend not to ever indulge in them at home... and I cannot tell you there is a good reason for it. The Avocado Cucumber Soup was excellent, and now that my state has turned into a sauna, I can even better appreciate it. While that version of soup was vegan, today I made a vegetarian version gifted to me by my friend, Ann.

Though it's been more than a decade since we've worked together, and she moved to California (my envy green and thriving, as you know), we continue to keep in touch. While chatting at Alterra when she was in town recently, she mentioned this soup that has it's origins in the L.A. Times. I had 2 cucumbers firmly residing in my fridge, one in each of my last two CSA boxes. I really love cucumber, but sometimes, I think there is only so much cuke a person can eat - especially since my chosen method of ingestion is sliced and mixed with mayo or sour cream, huge amounts of dill and salt and pepper.

Really my favorite thing about cold soup recipes is that you can go on blending, mixing and tasting until you come up with something you are downright proud of eating. That is exactly how this soup is. And when I finally felt like eating lunch around 2 o'clock this afternoon, nothing could have hit the spot harder than this spicy hot, cold soup garnished with heirloom sweet tomato.

Heirlooms. Just as precious as jewels, in my opinion - and worth the heat of Summer in and of themselves.

I will give you what Ann emailed me, and annotate in {parenthesis} what I actually did. I had to bring the recipe down to about a cucumber and a half's worth of volume.... but you know how to make soup - right? Throw in what makes you happy! (Direction applications are from Ann.) You can easily Veganize this soup by substituting avocado for the yogurt.

Cucumber Gazpacho (via Ann Martens, via the Los Angeles Times)
  • 4 1/2 cucumbers (about 2 1/2 lbs.), divided {I used 1 1/2 cukes}
  • 1 c. plain yogurt {I used a heaping 1/4 c. of my strained Greek style yogurt}
  • 1 t. Thai red curry paste {I used a heaping tablespoon of Spice House red curry powder}
  • 1/3 c. lime juice (Ann's husband, Dave, uses 3 limes and never measures) {I used 1 lime, juiced}
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper (Dave uses up to three) {I used 2 small ones, from my garden}
  • 1 1/4 t. salt, to taste
  • 1/4 t. pepper, to taste
  • 30 cilantro leaves (Dave uses a big handful, sans stems) {I used a big handful}
  • 20 fresh mint leaves (Dave uses a big handful) {being intrepid still of mint, I used the leaves of 3 good sized stalks}
  • fresh rosemary (this addition is a Dave original!) {I used the needles from one longish stalk of rosemary...}
  • 1/2 c. olive oil {I glugged in about 3 Tablespoons}
  • 1/2 medium tomato for garnish {I used a few of my Black Prince heirlooms, sliced}
"Peel, seed, and cut 4 cucumbers into quarters. Cut the remaining one fourth cucumber in small dice and set aside for garnish.

Place half the quartered cucumbers in a blender jar (I used my food pro, due to the sad state of my blender) and add the yogurt, curry paste, lime juice, jalapeno, salt, & pepper. Puree. While the blender is running, add the remaining cucumber, cilantro, mint, and rosemary (if using). This is a fun stage for kids because it turns green suddenly!

Adjust the seasonings, then while the blender is on, and gradually pour in one-half cup olive oil to emulsify. Chill until ready to serve.

In a small bowl, make the garnish by combining the diced cucumber, 1/2 tsp lime juice, a pinch of salt & pepper, the diced tomato, 1 tsp. olive oil, and a little chopped mint & cilantro.

To serve: Spoon the gazpacho into bowls and sprinkle each with garnish.
We have never made the garnish because we are too impatient. We just pour the soup into big mugs and drink it right away :) Yum!"

I ate about half of my amount for my late lunch today, and plan on eating the leftover glassful tomorrow, as the heat does not promise to give way any time soon. On the brink of each new season, I tend to long for the polar opposite. When Spring was at hand, I longed for fall, a cool reprise, and rainy, damp afternoons. Why do I always want what I can't have, instead of basking in the moment, weather-wise, I mean.

Maybe I'm not so much for the heat, as I am for the cool, a Northerner by birth and genetics (except for that Mexican side...). Layers of clothing and walks without breaking a sweat certainly do sound appealing at this point in the year. Perhaps it's the warm-weathered Mexican part of me that creates these feelings of indecision when it comes to Summer, or maybe it's just that I'm not so hungry. Either way, I am sure I'll be enjoying this cold Cucumber Gazpacho as long as I'm able to get fresh Wisconsin cucumbers. It's certainly one thing that is a perk in these long and hot, dog days of Summer.


  1. i love cold soup and am excited to add this one to my repertoire (there is only so much gazpacho a girl can eat!) though its been crazy hot here all summer too, and when i get to baking, not even a fridge full of cucumbers is enough to cool me down!

  2. I'm drooling as I look at your pictures...that cucumber gazpacho looks and sounds amazing. Wow.

  3. What an interesting recipe and gorgeous pictures! Those tomatoes are beautiful.

  4. I'm with you on this heat. I can't recall a summer in Milwaukee when we've had so many consecutive days of such oppressive temperatures.

    Thank goodness for ingenuity... A/C, and cooling foods! I'm intrigued by the Thai flavors in this soup (interestingly augmented by my favorite herb, rosemary!). All sorts of cooling properties going on there.

  5. Hi Rebecca. I finally turned on my air this week after going all of last without. (It really wasn't so bad). My garden is finally producing and I'm trying this soup. It looks delicious. Hang in there, cooler temps are on the way!

  6. Yum! I definitely have not made enough cold soups (or any, ahem) this summer. Great idea!


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