BLOG — Cold soup no comfort, but it’s fun!
- Published: July 30, 2011
In general I would say I’m luke warm about cold soup. Soup is by original definition, hot. It’s that quintessential warming food, both psychologically and physiologically comforting precisely because it takes so little work to eat it. You often don’t have to chew, and it’s already reached body temperature — it’s practically predigested. And yet the flavors are compelling because the liquification creates a singular taste whose parts are disguised and tricky to call out. Soup is the sum of the dinner plate parts (in an appetizing way). I love soup.
Intuitively, cold soup should be everything hot soup is with slower moving parts. Like I said, not so fast. First you have to convince your mind that you’re not eating leftovers, or baby food. If identification of ingredients in a food is a prerequisite to eating it (kids, we’ll call it curiosity), the cold only masks flavors and thereby raises the sleuthing bar. The slowness of those particles thickens soup, sometimes to a paste that I would liken to the strip of moist pulp you have left in the juicer after the juice has been extracted. And we won’t even go into the tragedy that becomes a soup made with high animal fat content that’s not fully incorporated and then chilled. In fact, cold soup shouldn’t even be called soup. My point is, in the summer when what you want to eat is cold food, soup suddenly and for good reason, becomes scarce.
But the heat, it’s been unbearable, and the only thing I can think of is cold food. And then we got a bucket full of carrots from our CSA, and I didn’t know what to do with them all. That’s how, with thorns, I got to cold carrot soup.
Vichyssoise is the old cold soup standard, but our lease on it seems expired. Fruit soup is another cold offering likely to appear on restaurant menus, but fruit en masse is called dessert and it should remain such. Gazpacho is a perky choice, and I actually have a wonderful recipe for a macrobiotic carrot gazpacho I got from my friend Ellen Adkins. It calls for fresh carrot juice as the base (distinctly not blended carrots nor bottled carrot juice) with a Japanese slant, including umeboshi (pickled plums), rice vinegar and soy sauce. But I don’t have a juicer and I wanted to use up my own carrots, so ironically, I couldn’t make that one (unless Main Squeeze would have juiced my carrots for me?). So it was to the ether for inspiration.
After some filtration of variations on Vichyssoise with carrot, I got to Molly Wizenburg’s blog, Orangette, featuring a compellingly simple chilled carrot soup with lime juice, avocado and juiced carrot. Taking the idea of lime and avocado and vowing to return when when I could afford a juicer, I alighted at another site, Herbivoracious, whose very urban appetizer spoons pre-filled with soup and sprinkles featured Middleastern garnishes such as pomegranate syrup (which was an automatic hit because I had some in the cupboard) and dukkah, a loosely interpreted spice and nut mash.
The chilled carrot soup I brought to the table was both delicious and fun to eat with lots of choice for kids on the accoutrements. I was reminded that cold soup is not anything that hot soup is, and that it’s value is not that it’s comforting but that it’s lively, conversational, and best of all, a great way to stay cool as the heat wave crests toward August.
JEWELED COLD CARROT SOUP
1 t cumin
1 t coriander
1 med. onion, rough chopped
2 in. grated fresh ginger
2 lbs carrots, rough chopped
3 C vegetable broth or water
2 limes, juiced
2 oranges, juiced
salt and pepper to taste
Saute in 3 T olive oil first four ingredients in that order (5 mins) then add carrots and broth. Simmer until carrots are soft (15 mins) and puree in blender, adding citrus juices and seasoning to taste.
Dukkah (my version)
1/2 C pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted
3 T fresh mint, minced
3 T fresh cilantro, minced
1/2 t salt
1/2 t crushed red pepper
Crush all ingredients with mortar and pestle or pulse in Cuisinart to rough paste.