Summer may be “easy-livin’ ” time for most folks, but the season proves to be difficult and challenging for those planning meals that are tasty and attractive. It’s time to take notice of some of the cold soups that have been created to soothe jaded appetites and to bring enjoyment and respite from the languor of enervating temperatures.
July is high summer in Spain. Across the land of Don Quixote, Cervantes, El Greco and the Alhambra, the hills and plains of this romantic country swelter and grow mellow and hot, much like a tantalizing, musky melon. The markets are filled with summer vegetables at the peak of their intensity and flavor.
This is the land of rice fields stretching endlessly across the plains of Valencia; of crimson tomatoes, bursting with flavor and succulence; of sweet melons, ripe strawberries, fragrant peaches, glossy cucumbers and fragrant garlic.
Summer is a time for the Spanish cold and comforting creation, gazpacho. During the 1960s and 1970s gazpacho became a popular cold soup. There are 30 classic recipes for gazpacho, and its name comes from the Latin “pasti” meaning bread, dough or paste. Authentic Spanish recipes for the cold soup are varied from region to region with one common ingredient, crustless pieces from the center of fresh bread is incorporated into the vegetable ingredients.
This recipe is an adaptation of the Spanish version and is a simple, but delicious concoction. Several years ago the owner of Pigeon Patio in Key West shared this recipe with me. Instead of tomato juice, I often substitute V-8 or Clamato juice for extra flavor.
Gazpacho Pigeon Patio
46-ounce can Sacramento tomato juice
2 large cucumbers cut into small cubes
2 large firm fresh tomatoes cut into small cubes
1 large green pepper, chopped fine
½ package Lipton’s dried onion soup or a medium onion chopped fine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
½ cup wine vinegar
¼ cup white vinegar
¼ cup dry sherry
3 dashes Tabasco sauce
½ teaspoon Accent
2 crushed garlic cloves or ½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon celery salt
½ teaspoon salt or to taste
10 turns freshly ground pepper
Add onion soup or chopped onions.
■ Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender to desired texture, and chill.
We can thank the Russian and Polish immigrants who came to our shores early in the 20th century for introducing borscht to us. And we can thank that wonderful cook and entrepreneur Hilde Kumpia, the late owner of Hilde’s Tearoom in Old Naples for introducing borscht to Neapolitans.
Many Russian refugees, fleeing the Revolution early in the century, migrated to France and the dish eventually was accepted by the French. Traditional Russian borscht is a heavy soup, served hot with lots of beef and beef bones, sometimes cabbage and potatoes. It basically was a peasant dish, hearty and nourishing.
I was unable to obtain the recipe for Hilde’s famous borscht but this recipe, which closely resembles the soup served at the Russian Tea Room in New York, is a most satisfying version:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1¾ cups finely sliced cabbage
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 2/3 cups rich beef broth, preferably homemade
2 (16-ounce) cans sliced beets with their juice, coarsely chopped or finely julienned
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1½ tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
¼ teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
6 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons snipped fresh dill
■ Heat oil in large saucepan over moderately high heat. Add onion, cabbage and parsley and sauté, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is glossy and crisp-tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
■ Add broth, half the beets, vinegar, tomato paste, sugar, salt and pepper; reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes.
■ Meanwhile puree remaining beets and beet liquid in blender or food processor. Add to pan and bring just to a boil. Do not cook any further. Soup may be served hot or chill well and serve cold, topped with sour cream and dill. Makes 6 servings.
In 1917, one of the most influential chefs to make an appearance on the culinary scene invented vichyssoise. Chef Louis Diat introduced this appetizing soup at the Ritz-Carlton in New York City. Born in France, he recalled the leek and potato soup made by his mother. The original soup was commonly known as potage bonne femme and was known by every French housewife. Diat took the original recipe and enriched it with cream and renamed it Vichyssoise after the town where he was born near Vichy, world famous for its spring water.
Cream vichyssoise glace
This is Chef Louis Diat’s original recipe, which appears in his book “Cooking a la Ritz,”
4 leeks, white part
1 medium onion
2 ounces sweet butter
5 medium potatoes
4 cups rich chicken broth
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups milk
2 cups medium cream
1 cup heavy cream
Chopped chives, optional
■ Finely slice the white part of the leeks and the onion, and sauté very lightly in the sweet butter. Add the potatoes, also sliced finely. Add chicken broth and salt. Boil 35 to 40 minutes.
■ Crush and rub through a fine strainer. Return to fire and add milk and medium cream. Season to taste and bring to a boil. Cool and then rub through a very fine strainer.
■ When soup is cold, add the heavy cream. Chill thoroughly before serving. Finely chopped chives may be added before serving. Serves 8.
Q: I am spending the summer in California where my parents have a home. One year my mother and father were visiting in Naples and read your column regularly. One recipe that my mother tried was apricot bread that was perfectly delicious. As a surprise I would like to make this bread for them. I would appreciate having the recipe.
— Lauren Platak, Los Gatos, Cal.
A: It has been several years, but luckily this recipe was in my archives.
Swirled apricot cream cheese bread
1 cup dried apricots, in thin strips
½ cup golden raisins
4 tablespoons butter, softened
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup sugar
1 large egg
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup orange juice
½ cup sliced almonds, divided
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest
■ In a small bowl combin apricots and raisins. Add boiling water to cover and allow to stand about 30 minutes.
■ In a large bowl cream butter and sugars. Beat in egg. In medium bowl sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture alternately with orange juice. Batter will be thick. Stir in drained apricots, raisins and ¼ cup almonds.
■ In a food processor or blender combine all the filling ingredients. Process until smooth. Pour two-thirds of batter into greased, lightly floured 9x5-inch loaf pan. Spread all filling evenly over batter. Top with remaining batter. Lightly swirl with knife. Sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup almonds.
■ Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 55 to 60 minutes or until golden and fir. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove to rack and cool completely. Refrigerate tightly wrapped in foil or plastic wrap. Makes 1 loaf.
Doris Reynolds is the author of “When Peacocks Were Roasted and Mullet was Fried” and “Let’s Talk Food”. They are available for sale in the lobby of the Naples Daily News. Also available is a- 4-part DVD, “A Walk Down Memory Lane with Doris Reynolds.” For comments and information regarding today’s column, contact Doris Reynolds at firstname.lastname@example.org.