Julia Child's Recipes. My Kitchen.

Follow along as I cook from volumes 1 and 2 of the culinary classic - with a modern makeover.

Cold Cucumber Soup

Sunday, August 29, 2010

"Hot soup on a cold day, cold soup on a hot day..."

I'll heed Julia's suggestion and go with the latter, thanks very much. It's late summer; still pretty hot and sultry where I live, enough that my urge to cook and eat has been tempered by the heat. I'm craving all things cool, juicy or crunchy; like simple salads and quick vegetable soups I can whip up in my blender and eat chilled.

Julia pooh-poohed the idea of using a blender for making purees; in MTAOFC she recommends using a food mill to avoid "stringy fibers" in the final product, something blenders or food processors tend to do.

I agree that a food mill is an essential tool to have in the kitchen, great when you want to make a smooth puree by hand.

However, blender technology has come along in the 21st century. Now we can buy ultra-powerful blenders that can produce very smooth results in seconds. I love my Vitamix blender and put it to use whenever I can. Of course, it's not absolutely necessary to use such a pricey piece of equipment to make this simple recipe. You'll have good results with any blender that can turn out a decent smoothie.

The other place where I stray from Julia's original recipe is at her use of liaisons to thicken soups. Liaisons in classic French cooking are typically starches like rice, flour, tapioca or potato that bind fat and liquids to create a stable, non-watery texture.

But the idea of adding flour to a fresh vegetable puree seems dated and unappealing to me, maybe too heavy when what I'm after is lightness and pure flavor. So I substituted avocado in my version of the recipe. It makes a silky-smooth puree and adds to the visual beauty of the soup....the pale green color looks so soothing and refreshing.

Cold Cucumber Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
2 seedless European cucumbers, or 3 regular cucumbers; unwaxed, unpeeled and chopped {peel if all you can find are waxed}
Fine sea salt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 green onions, chopped
1 Hass avocado, peeled and pitted
2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
1/2 cup fresh herbs such as: dill, mint, tarragon, cilantro or parsley

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat; add the shallot and garlic and cook a few minutes to soften. Add the cucumbers and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover the pan and cook until the cucumber begins to soften and exude water, about 10 minutes. Transfer to refrigerator to cool.

Pulse the cucumber mixture in a blender until chopped; add the remaining ingredients and blend until very smooth, adding a little water if needed to reach desired texture. Season with additional salt and/or lemon juice, keeping in mind that extra seasoning won't hurt since the soup will be served cold.

Chill for an hour or two or serve straight from the blender. Serves 4 -6