There’s nothing like a chilled soup full of fresh produce to energize you during the long, hot days of summer. With myriad chilled soup recipes available, it’s hard to choose just one. My approach to meal preparation generally begins with an assessment of what produce I have in my kitchen and in my garden, and based on that, I’ll begin to scour the internet for recipes that use similar ingredients. Eventually I’ll find one that includes most of the ingredients I have and then I get cooking! The recipe I’m sharing below came to be in just this manner.
I had just harvested a plethora of beautiful beets, a couple of cucumbers, and a few perfectly ripe tomatoes from my home garden. After searching through recipes, I found several that used these ingredients, most of which were borsch or gazpacho recipes.
Borsch (or borscht, or borshch, or any other number of spelling variations) is a beet-based soup which can be found in most homes throughout Eastern Europe in warm and cold weather alike. In the wintertime, when the temperature drops to unspeakable lows, a hot bowl of borsch is the perfect way to warm yourself up from the inside out. In the summer season, one can enjoy it served cold with a dollop of sour cream. This combination can turn the ordinarily vibrant fuchsia soup to a softer shade of blush, which is wonderfully contrasted against the bright green of dill weed. Generally speaking, this recipe includes potatoes, cabbage, carrots and, of course, beets. However, much like the numerous spelling variations, there are an equal number of recipe variations.
In Spain, in the southern community of Andalusia, where it is rumored that gazpacho originated, the weather in the summertime can reach scorching high temperatures. So it seems sensible that this dish is generally served cold, but it can also be found as a hot meal during winter months. Sometimes referred to as a ‘liquid salad,’ gazpacho recipes often include tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, garlic, breadcrumbs, oil and vinegar. Agricultural day laborers were given rations of oil and stale bread which they would soak in water to create the basis for this soup. Using a mortar and pestle, they would add garlic and whatever vegetables were available to comprise a cooling, nourishing meal at the end of a hard work day. Similar to borsch, there are many variations for this recipe using all different ingredients.
Both gazpacho and borsch originally hail from Europe, respectively western and eastern in their roots. With many variations of both recipes, they are ideal for using summertime produce (tomatoes, beets, cucumbers, cabbage, potatoes, etc.) and may be served hot or cold. As is often the case with traditional recipes from yesteryear, the original ingredients and methodology are long gone. Employing fresh, local produce, this Chilled Beet, Cucumber and Tomato Soup is a creative mashup between these two classic recipes.
Chilled Beet, Cucumber and Tomato Soup
Total time: 30 active minutes, plus 1 1/2 hours or overnight
Makes four servings
In my Basket:
2 lbs/about 4 Beets (from my home garden)
1 cup/1 medium Cucumber (from my home garden)
1 cup/1 medium Tomato (from my home garden)
4 Garlic Cloves (Second Nature Farm, Norton MA)
⅓ of a cup/1 small Red Onion (Second Nature Farm, Norton MA)
1 tbsp Dill Weed (Second Nature Farm, Norton MA)
3 tbsp Vinegar, sherry or red wine is best (Brattleboro Co-op, Brattleboro VT)
4 slices of Sourdough Bread (homemade)
From the Pantry:
2 tablespoons of Cultured Butter
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 cups of Water or Vegetable Stock
Day before, or at least one and a half hours before:
- Remove beet greens and wash beets well.
- Place beets in a medium pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low and simmer until fork tender all the way through, about 45- 60 minutes.
- When beets are cooled, slip off their skins using your hands.
- Chop 3 beets (saving one beet for garnish) and place them into a blender with 2 cups of the cold water (or veggie stock).
- Remove skin from 2 garlic cloves and onion, chop both. Wash and dry produce. Skin cucumber and chop ⅔ of it, dice the remaining third for garnish. Chop dill weed, reserving a third of it for garnish. Slice tomato in half, gently squeeze to remove some of the seeds and then chop ⅔ of it, dice the remaining third for garnish.
- Add garlic cloves, onion, salt, pepper, vinegar, ⅔ of tomato, ⅔ of cucumber and ⅔ of dill to your blender. Blend until very smooth.
- Taste and adjust salt, pepper and vinegar.
- Place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
- Place 2 garlic cloves in an aluminum foil pouch, and grill or roast until soft. Remove skin and place softened cloves in a bowl. Mash with a fork. Add butter. If using unsalted butter, be sure to add a pinch of salt. Mix until well incorporated.
- Finely dice remaining beet and any other produce for garnish.
- Grill the sourdough slices or toast them in the oven. Spread the butter and garlic mixture on the sourdough slices.
- Pour chilled beet soup (the colder it is, the better) into bowls. Drizzle with a little olive oil or a swirl of yogurt or sour cream (which is my favorite) if you like. Top with the garnishes.
- Enjoy! And remember, when you get to the hard part; that’s the plate.
Jessica Ann Mandelbaum has been eating her way around New England for the past four years. When Jessica’s not writing about the multi-sensory perception of flavor or force-feeding loved ones her various kitchen creations, she can be found practicing yoga, gardening, reading, hiking, or spending quality time with her dog-daughter.