When the produce at your local store, farmers market, or private garden is at its peak, it’s time to make fresh vegetables the star of your meal.
It’s time to make summer soup.
In summer, you want to get the most out of your products by bringing out their taste in the purest and most natural way possible. The fewer the embellishments, the lower the complexity, the better. Other flavors don’t have to distract you from fresh garden goodness.
As an added benefit, the subtle flavors usually come from simple cooking techniques.
In other words, summer soups are delicious and easy to prepare. the win.
I recently made four summer soups. Only one of them was cooled, but each, in its own way, was unforgettable.
We’ll start with the iced soup first. It is called beet, fennel and ginger soup, and along with beet, fennel and ginger, it is also made from cabbage and vegetable broth.
“This is a Porsche,” said a colleague. I just made a Porsche in March.
I said, “It is not a bush.” “It’s not just beet soup, it also has cabbage and vegetable broth”
Well, it’s a Porsche. But this version is made without meat, so it’s a hearty vegetarian meal—or vegan, if you skip a little yogurt on top.
It’s also lighter in tone and texture than the borsch I’ve made in the past. While it still has the pleasant earthy undertone that comes from beets, it also comes alive with the exotic taste of fennel, anise, and a warm ginger top.
When mashed together—and these recipes will require a lot of mashing—the ingredients are better than their individual parts. The soup is also light and smooth, making it perfect for warm summer evenings.
I went the elegant route for my next go-to, asparagus and shiitake mushroom soup. The recipe came from the now sadly closed Trellis Restaurant, which at its peak was one of the best restaurants in Virginia.
I’ve made asparagus soup a few times, and love it. I’ve made mushroom soup a few times, and loved it. But I never thought of combining the two into one incredible dish. This takes on the kind of culinary genius possessed by Marcel Dessalegn, the pioneering original chef of Trellis owner.
The soup that yields is exquisitely delicate, as the delicate, fresh taste of asparagus plays off the comforting asparagus of shiitake mushrooms.
As befits the restaurant that also created the dessert called Death By Chocolate, this soup isn’t for people who score points for Weight Watchers. A rich roux turns the texture of the soup velvety, and all the flavors are tied together with a cup of heavy cream.
I used half and half to save a few calories. In this way, I felt virtuous and healthy, even though I wasn’t.
My next soup also came from a famous restaurant. Cream of Zucchini and Almond Soup was a dish served in the Walnut Room on the Main State Street location of the Marshall Field store in Chicago.
Once again I am in awe of the creativity of the chefs.
Who would think to combine the herbal zucchini with the warm crunchy almond? And then who would think to put it in cream soup?
But that’s not where the brilliance of this dish ends. The soup stands out due to the subtle inclusion of sweet spices: a restrained blend of brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
It’s a soup you’ve never had before, unless you’ve been to the Walnut Room.
My last soup is the easiest of all. Sweet pea soup also has a fresh taste – although it uses frozen peas.
You can use fresh peas if you can find them.
All you have to do is cook peas with some sweet red pepper and a big chunk of onion and carrot in chicken broth, vegetable broth or even pork broth. When the vegetables are well cooked, but just barely cooked, you can mash them to get a silky smooth texture.
Season it generously and serve, if you like, with toasted bread or crumbled bacon.
I have used both. It seemed like a summer thing to do.
Beetroot, fennel and ginger soup
fruit: 8 servings
2 1/2 cups peeled and chopped red beets
4 cups shredded cabbage
2 cups chopped fennel
1 clove minced garlic
3 tablespoons minced ginger
8 cups vegetable broth, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup fat-free yogurt
2 tablespoons chopped fennel sprigs
Combine beets, cabbage, fennel, garlic, ginger, and 6 cups of the broth in a large saucepan, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes.
Strain the soup through a large mesh sieve. Puree the vegetables in 1 cup of hot broth in a food processor or blender until smooth (you may have to do this in batches). Add the remaining hot broth and mix. If the soup does not have a consistency, add some of the remaining 2 cups of the broth until it reaches the desired consistency.
Refrigerate at least two hours before serving. Season with salt and pepper. Serve in refrigerated bowls, if desired, with yogurt and fennel sprigs.
For every meal: 60 calories 1 gram fat 1 gram saturated fat 1 gram cholesterol 3 grams protein 13 grams carbohydrates 8 grams sugar 3 grams fiber 756 milligrams sodium 51 milligrams calcium.
— Excerpted from “Healthy Cooking” by At Home With Culinary Institute of America
Asparagus and mushroom soup
fruit: 8 servings
1 pound fresh asparagus
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon water
4 celery stalks chopped
2 medium sized beans, white part only, chopped
1 medium onion chopped
Salt and Pepper
6 cups chicken broth
7 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream or half and half
Fill a large bowl with ice and water, and set aside. Boil 3 liters of salted water.
Pick up the woody stem from each asparagus stalk and hold it. Gently peel half of the stems. Cut the preserved ends and the remaining unpeeled asparagus into 1/4-inch pieces. Cover with plastic wrap, and put in the fridge until needed. Boil peeled asparagus in boiling water. Do not overcook the asparagus should be cooked while maintaining its crispness. Transfer the peeled asparagus to the ice water.
When peeled asparagus has cooled, cut into 3/4-inch pieces. Cover with plastic wrap, and put in the fridge until needed.
Remove and chop the mushroom stems. Cut the lids and keep.
Heat vegetable oil and water in a large saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add chopped (1/4-inch) asparagus, mushroom stems, celery, shallots, and onions. Season with salt and pepper and sauté until onion is translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil.
While the chicken broth is heating, melt the butter in a separate large saucepan over low heat. Add flour to make roux and cook, stirring constantly, until roux is formed, 6 to 8 minutes. Strain 4 cups of the boiling broth into the roux and whisk vigorously until smooth. Add the rest of the vegetables. Whisk until well blended. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes.
Puree in a blender or food processor. Strain into a 5-liter saucepan, and return to low heat. Simmer for a few minutes while you complete the recipe (note: if you are not going to serve the soup within 1 hour, do not complete the next step until you are ready to serve; otherwise, the delicate flavor and color of the asparagus dissipate).
Heat the cream, sliced shiitake and asparagus 3/4-inch pieces in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. When hot, add to soup and adjust seasoning. Feet it right away. (This soup can be kept hot in a double boiler for up to 1 hour.)
For every meal: 250 calories 18 grams fat 11 grams saturated fat 45 grams cholesterol 6 grams protein 19 grams carbohydrates 4 grams sugar 3 grams fiber 389 milligrams sodium 58 milligrams calcium.
—Recipe from “The Trellis Cookbook” by Marcel Desolnier
Creamy Zucchini and Almond Soup
fruit: 8 servings
6 tablespoons minced onion
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/3 cups zucchini, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped almonds
5 cups chicken broth
2 1/2 tablespoons ground almonds, see note
2/3 cup half and half or heavy cream
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
NB: You can use almond butter with ground almonds. If you don’t have it, grind the chopped almonds in a spice grinder or small pieces and grind them using a mortar and pestle.
Fry onions in butter until soft. Add zucchini and chopped almonds. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes (the zucchini should be just barely tender and not limp). Add chicken broth and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the ground almonds. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add cream, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. It heats up well.
For every meal: 134 calories 8 grams fat 4 grams saturated fat 20 grams cholesterol 5 grams protein 8 grams carbohydrates 4 grams sugar 1 gram fiber 218 milligrams sodium 21 milligrams calcium.
– Excerpted from “Marshall Fields Gourmet: A Taste of Tradition”
Sweet pea soup
fruit: 4 servings
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
4 (1 inch) sweet red pepper slices
1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cups chicken, pork or vegetable broth
2 cups frozen or fresh peas
salt to taste
Crispy bacon, optional
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over a medium to high heat. Add onions, red peppers and carrots. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the broth and simmer for 5 minutes. Add peas, and cook until peas are heated through, 1 minute for freezing and 3 to 5 minutes for fresh. Add salt to taste. Puree it in a blender until smooth. Serve with toast and crumbled bacon, if desired.
For every meal: 198 calories 7 grams fat 2 grams saturated fat 5 grams cholesterol 7 grams protein 29 grams carbohydrates 13 grams sugar 7 grams fiber 1,355 milligrams sodium; 49 milligrams calcium.
Adapted from “Vita Mix Recipes for a Better Life”