by Nancy Sweet, director, LLCC culinary programs and operations
Is it just me or did central Illinois completely skip spring and head directly from winter to summer? As I look at the forecast a month before summer “officially” starts, I see multiple days of over 90 degrees.
And at 90 plus degrees, combined with the humidity that central Illinois is famous for, who would ever want to eat soup? But a cold or chilled soup, now that’s a whole other story! Soup doesn’t always have to be heavy or even hot. Even better, some chilled soups don’t even require you to actually cook anything, so you can leave the hot stove off. It’s almost like having your personal bowl of air conditioning while still enjoying beautiful fruits and vegetables.
Gazpacho is a very popular cold soup. It’s a traditional Spanish tomato-based chilled soup. And like many cold soups, it’s easy to change it up. Puree and strain in for a very smooth soup; or, leave it chunkier if you like. Have extra herbs or veggies on hand? Throw them in, too. Sour cream, ricotta, feta and goat cheese are great ways to add a little creaminess to the broth. Have extra peaches or watermelon on hand? Give your soup a little sweet and savory kick.
Below are a few recipes for you to help stay cool this summer.
Curried Squash Soup
Adapted from Bon Appetit
*2 large yellow summer squash, chopped
*1 small onion, chopped
*2 tsp. curry powder
*Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
*4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
*3 tablespoons vegetable oil
*Sour cream, freshly cracked black pepper, cilantro sprigs (for serving)
Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add squash, onion and curry powder; season with salt and pepper. Cook until tender, 8–10 minutes. Add broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until very tender, 25–30 minutes. Purée until smooth. Serve soup warm or chilled, topped with sour cream, cracked pepper and cilantro sprigs.
Chilled Cucumber Soup with Soba Noodles
Adapted from Bon Appetit
*2 English cucumber
*1 teaspoon kosher salt
*1 tablespoon fish sauce
*2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
*2 teaspoon mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine)
*1 tablespoon soy sauce
*2 garlic clove, minced
*1 red chile pepper (such as red jalapeño or Fresno), thinly sliced
*3 ounces soba noodles
*1 cup shredded rotisserie chicken meat or 4 ounces sliced tofu
*1 scallion, thinly sliced
Thinly slice enough rounds of cucumber to measure 1/4 cup; reserve in a small bowl. Peel and coarsely chop remaining cucumbers into 1″ pieces; transfer pieces to a small bowl and sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt. Let sit for 15 minutes.
Rinse salted cucumbers. Blend chopped cucumbers in a food processor until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl; discard pulp (you should have about 3 cups cucumber juice).
Combine fish sauce, vinegar, mirin, soy, garlic, chile pepper and 1/4 cup water in a small bowl and mix sauce well. Stir sauce into the cucumber juice. Keep chilled.
Cook the soba noodles in boiling water until al dente; drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water to chill. Drain well, then divide noodles between two bowls. Pour half of soup base into each bowl. Add chicken, if using, and garnish with scallions and reserved cucumber.
Watermelon Gazpacho with Feta Cream
*1 pound seedless watermelon, rind removed, coarsely chopped (about 3 cups)
*1 large tomato, coarsely chopped
*1 English cucumber, peeled, coarsely chopped
*1 jalapeño, seeds removed, sliced
*2 tablespoons olive oil
*2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
*Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
*¼ cup almonds
*2 ounces feta, crumbled (about ½ cup)
*¼ cup sour cream
*3 tablespoons whole milk
*¾ pound seedless watermelon, rind removed, cut into ½” pieces (about 2 cups)
*½ English cucumber, peeled, cut into 1/2″ pieces
*Olive oil (for serving)
*Flaky sea salt (or Kosher)
*Freshly ground black pepper
Purée watermelon, tomato, cucumber, jalapeño, oil and vinegar in a blender until smooth.
Transfer gazpacho to a large bowl; season with kosher salt and pepper. Cover and chill at least 1 hour before serving. Gazpacho can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.
Preheat oven to 350°. Toast almonds on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, about 8–10 minutes. (Alternatively, you can do this step in a dry small skillet over medium heat.) Let almonds cool, then coarsely chop.
Mash feta into sour cream in a small bowl until mostly smooth, then whisk in milk.
Divide watermelon and cucumber among bowls and pour gazpacho over. Top with feta cream and almonds, drizzle with oil, and season with sea salt and pepper. Cream can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
Chilled Yellow Tomato Soup
From Chef Sean Keeley, LLCC Culinary Specialist
Serves 4 – 6
*2 Tablespoons olive oil
*1 medium carrot, peeled and rough chopped
*1 small onion, peeled and rough chopped
*1 celery ribs, chopped
*1 Tablespoon minced garlic
*1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
*2 bay leaves
*1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
*½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
*1 pound yellow tomatoes, preferably large vine-ripe stemmed and chopped
*1 quart vegetable or chicken stock
In a large pot heat oil over medium heat. Add all ingredients except for tomatoes and stock. Sauté until the onions become translucent. Add tomatoes and sauté until they begin to soften and then add the stock. Bring soup to a slight simmer and then turn heat to low and cook for 30 minutes.
Transfer soup to a blender. Blend in small batches if needed and be careful to cover the blender with a towel and start on a low speed as hot liquid can create a vacuum and explode at high speed. Or, use an emersion blender and blend soup in the pot used to cook.
Pour the soup through a wire mesh strainer to catch any solid bits and discard the bits. Chill the soup in a shallow pan for two hours or overnight. Serve soup with any number of garnishes like fresh crab, herbs, garlic crostini with ricotta or just good olive oil.
Want to know more?
Lincoln Land Community College offers associate degree programs in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management and academic credit certificates in Culinary Arts and Baking/Pastry. For more information call 217-786-4613 or visit www.llcc.edu/hospitality-culinary-arts.