Long, hot summer days bring those childhood memories -- chasing through lawn sprinklers, setting up lemonade stands, catching fireflies in a jar, and for me, my Russian born grandmother's cold soups. Beet borscht and spinach borscht (Schav) were summer specials on her menu, served as a first coarse with a side of authentic pumpernickel bread, followed by a salad and some type of white fish fresh from Lake Erie.
As a kid, I detested beets in a hot preparation, but loved the cold soup with its lemony highlights. Just like the splash of citrus in the beet borscht, the hint of sour in the spinach borscht hit an unforgettable flavor note that to me, tasted like summer.
My early appreciation for cold soup expanded with later discoveries of gazpacho, vichyssoise, and sweeter soups made with berries and melons. From Scandinavia to Mexico, I found a whole world of vegetable and fruit-based cold soups and season-based recipes. I also discovered that my grandmother's spinach borscht was a close relative of Schav, a"green borscht" made with sorrel.
Blend away for Summer Soups: Beet Borscht, Carrot Ginger, and Chilled Red Pepper.
There are two types of cold soup preparation. The first is a simple, quick puree of raw vegetables and fruits, blended with a combination of stock, juices (usually citrus), dairy, herbs, and spices, the other, cooked (simmered, sautéed or grilled) vegetables and fruits blended with the same type of ingredients.
Sweet, fruit based, dessert soups are usually made without dairy or stock, using simple syrup or coconut water for additional liquid. Either way, the preparations are easy, cooking time is none or minimal. Two recommendations: prepare the soup leaving at least two hours to thoroughly chill in the refrigerator and season generously as herbs and spices become mute in cold food.
Summer Beet Borscht
4 lg beets, peeled, cut into medium chunks
1 medium onion, cut into medium chunks
5 cups cold water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
.5 to 1.5 Tablespoons sugar (start .5 Tablespoons, then add more if needed)
Juice of ½ lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
Garnishes-Greek yogurt, sour cream or crème fraiche
Fresh dill sprigs
1. Place beets and onion in a stockpot with cold water. Bring to a boil. Skim off foam. Turn heat down and simmer 15 minutes until beets are tender.
2. Turn off heat. Add kosher salt, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest. Taste and add additional seasoning if needed to balance sweet-tart flavor.
3. In batches, puree mixture in a blender. *
4. Place beet mixture in a bowl or pitcher, cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
5. Serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt, sour cream or crème fraiche, top with a sprig or sprinkle with chopped dill.
For creamy, tart borscht, thoroughly blend mixture with Greek yogurt or buttermilk.
Alternative garnishes: chives, chopped walnuts, crisp fried leeks or shallots, grated raw beets, boiled or roasted new potatoes
Sweet Red Pepper Soup Ingredients 4 Tablespoons Olive oil 4 lg red bell peppers, seeded, cored and sliced 2 cups leeks, white and light green parts, cleaned and sliced 1.5 cups vegetable stock 3 cups buttermilk 1- teaspoon apple cider vinegar Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste Garnishes-roasted garlic, chopped roasted pasilla chilies, chopped chives, parsley, basil, pesto, marinated feta cheese
1. Heat a large saucepan, add olive oil and when hot (not smoking) add red bell peppers and leeks- sweat vegetables until tender. Add vegetable stock, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
2. In batches, puree mixture in a blender.*
Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl or pitcher.
3. Whisk the buttermilk into the strained liquid. Stir in apple cider vinegar and season with salt and ground white pepper.
4. Cover and chill thoroughly, at least 2 hours.
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Ginger Carrot Soup
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 lg onions, thinly sliced
1.5 lbs carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons grated ginger
6 cups vegetable stock
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Garnishes-fresh mint, fresh rosemary, orange segments, grilled zucchini or roasted cherry tomatoes
1. Heat a large saucepan. Add olive oil and when hot (not smoking) add sliced onions seasoned with a pinch of kosher salt.
2. Add sliced carrots and grated ginger. Sweat the onions and carrots until vegetables begin to soften.
3. Add vegetable stock to the saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil, skim off any foam. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until vegetables are tender.
4. In batches, puree mixture in a blender.*
5. Strain puree through a sieve. In a large bowl or pitcher mix strained liquid with 1-cup milk and 1- cup cream.
6. Season to taste with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and grated nutmeg.
7. Cover and chill thoroughly, at least 2 hours.
*Always use caution with blender and hot liquid-fill ½ to 2/3 full.
Hold blender lid with a kitchen towel or oven mitt.
Tip: An immersion blender is ideal for blending hot liquid directly in cooking vessel.