Chilled Cucumber Soup

It’s that time of year again.

The time of year when my mom calls and says, “It’s so hot.  Can you believe how hot it is?”

Why, yes, actually–yes, I can.  My mother has lived in Texas for sixty-something summers, and she is still amazed–shocked–every year when August rolls around.

If you’re feeling the heat like we are, why not make a huge batch of this chilled delight to have on hand for lunch or dinner?  Like chicken salad, it’s a great summer meal because it’s served cold.  Unlike chicken salad, though, this one’s raw, so there is not a single moment of cooking involved!  That’s right; no standing over a hot stove and no firing up your oven.

I hope you enjoy this crisp, refreshing summer meal as much as we do.

4 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1.5 cups plain yogurt
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
1 Tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
1 tsp chili powder, plus a few pinches extra for garnish
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup crumbled goat’s cheese

1. Using a small mortar and pestle, grind garlic and salt into a paste.

2. In a food processor or blender, liquefy all ingredients, keeping aside a little chili powder and the goat’s cheese ; it may be necessary to blend in batches and then stir together in a large bowl.

3. Pour soup into four bowls, cover, and chill in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours.

4. To serve, sprinkle goat’s cheese and chili powder onto the top of each bowl of soup.

Serves 4. Delicious with a side of homemade bread (I added fresh rosemary and garlic to the loaf and served it alongside the soup, drizzled with a little olive oil).

An easy, healthy, and cooling summer treat!

Summer Squash Soup

Continuing the maize theme, I’d like to share a recipe for soup featuring summer squash and corn. This can be served hot or chilled, and makes a great first course (particularly with chicken) or a hearty main course if served in a large bowl with fresh bread, cornbread, or tortillas. It’s also tasty poured over a spoonful of black beans, or with a dollop of sour cream.

2 medium summer squash, diced
1 cup fresh corn kernels*
1 medium Vidalia onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano**
1 tsp cumin
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp lemon juice
1 fresh jalapeño, thinly sliced (optional)
handful fresh chopped cilantro (optional)
1 tsp olive oil
crumbled feta of goat’s cheese, to taste

1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and cook for about two minutes, until fragrant, then add squash, herbs, and about half the corn. If using cilantro, leave some aside for garnish. Cook for about five minutes, until squash softens, stirring frequently.

2. Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about another twenty minutes.

3. Pour mixture into a blender and purée until smooth. Return to the pan and add additional corn and lemon juice. Stir over medium heat for about five minutes, or until corn is tender.

4. Serve immediately, garnished with cilantro, jalapeño slices, and/or feta cheese.

Makes enough for 4 servings. Freezes well.

*frozen will work in a pinch, but both summer squash and corn are in season right now!
** or 2-3 teaspoons fresh

Amazing Asparagus Soup

I like the taste of asparagus, but I’m not always in the mood for its often-rubbery texture, especially since I usually buy a bunch at the store and then forget about it for a week. If you have some extra asparagus you need to use, try this easy and hearty soup! The sour cream, lemon juice, and herbs give it a bright, summery flavor, and it’s pretty filling, too–a great way to get some healthy vegetables, along with a helping of creamy, soupy goodness!

1 bunch asparagus (about one pound), chopped into one-inch bits
1 tsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
1 shallot, finely diced
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup sour cream (or heavy cream)
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 cup romano or parmesan cheese, grated
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1. In a large stock pot, sautée shallots in butter and olive oil over medium heat until fragrant, about two minutes.

2. Add asparagus and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and continue to cook for about fifteen minutes, until asparagus is tender.

3. Pour mixture into blender or large food processor and blend until smooth. Return to pan.

4. Add sour cream, lemon juice, thyme, and half the cheese and stir continuously until well-absorbed and heated through.

5. Serve immediately garnished with remaining cheese and black pepper.

Makes 2 servings. I recommend doubling it and freezing your leftovers. Beats a fast food lunch every time.

Broccoli and Pine Nut Soup

This is one of my favorite recipes. It’s simple, healthy, and so, so tasty! I could probably eat all four servings in one sitting!

And it’s a good dish for people who typically don’t like broccoli. If you’re on the fence on this cruciferous green vegetable, give this soup a try.

3 cups broccoli, chopped into small florets
1 shallot, finelydiced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp cumin
3 cups vegetable stock
¼ cup pine-nuts
1/2 cup cream
freshly ground black pepper

1. In a large skillet, fry shallots and garlic over medium heat in oil until slightly browned.

2. Add broccoli, cumin, and stock and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until broccoli has softened. Remove from heat and allow to cool for about two or three minutes.

3. Meanwhile, if desired, dry roast pine nuts in a shallow pan or in the oven on a cookie sheet; either way, it should only take about two or three minutes using medium heat.

4. In a blender or food processor, blend broccoli mixture, nuts, and cream to form a smooth texture. Return to pan, heat over medium while stirring frequently for about five minutes, to warm throughout.

Serve immediately with fresh bread. Garnish with black pepper to taste.

Makes three to four servings.

Seen above with crumbled feta and homemade no-knead bread.

Vegan Potato Soup

4 medium potatoes
1/4 yellow onion
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 tsp rosemary
1/4 tsp oregano
handful cashews
1 Tbsp butter
1 cup almond milk
1 Tbsp olive oil

1. Peel and dice three potatoes and drop into a pot of boiling water.

2. Scrub fourth potato clean, then dice with skin on and set aside.

3. Chop the onion and sauté with garlic and olive oil in a medium to large pan over medium-high heat until soft.

4. Add skin-on potato cubes to pan, along with vegetable broth, salt, pepper, oregano, and 1/4 tsp rosemary. Cook over low to medium heat for about five minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Drain boiling potatoes and put into blender with cashews, milk, and butter. Blend until smooth.

6. Pour blended potatoes into pan with herbs and diced potatoes, stir, and cook for a further five to ten minutes over low heat, until well mixed and warm throughout.

7. Pour into bowls and serve garnished with fresh cracked black pepper and the remaining rosemary.

Serves 2.