3 SUMMER CUCUMBER SOUPS
Growing up in Austria, cucumber salad was regularly on the menu. My mother also served us many cold soups, usually cherry or apple. I don’t remember if we ever had cucumber soup but to me no summer is complete without making at least one version. I’ve tried all three and which one I make depends on the ingredients I have on hand or the amount of time I am willing to spend. For an elegant luncheon or dinner I usually make Daniel Boulud’s version but if I’m pressed for time, the blender version is delicious and so fast. In addition to cucumbers, all three do have one thing in common – they should be served ice cold.
Mary’s BLENDER CUCUMBER SOUP
My friend, Mary Summers, served this for lunch and I’ve been making it ever since. It couldn’t be simpler, the only thing I suggest is to make it either the evening before or in the morning on the day you will have it for lunch or dinner so you have plenty of time to get it chilled:
Add to the blender:
- 5 cups cucumber – peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
- 1 cup milk (I use 2%)
- 3 green onions (scallions) cut into 1” pieces
- 3 Tbsp. Lemon or Lime juice
- ¼ to ½ tsp. Tabasco
- 16 oz. (2 cups) plain yogurt
- 2 Tbsp. dill – coarsely chopped – always use fresh dill
- ½ tsp. or more Salt to taste
Puree in blender until smooth, if too thick, add more milk. Store in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2-4 hrs. to chill completely. To serve, ladle into bowls, add a teaspoon or more fresh yogurt in the center and sprinkle with chopped dill.
Miriam Ungerer’s CUCUMBER SOUP
In the introduction to the soup, Mrs. Ungerer states: “Cucumber soup is elegant, easy and inexpensive to make for a large number of people. It tastes good even if drunk out of paper cups at a picnic.” This is from her book “TOO HOT TO COOK”, published by Funk & Wagnalls, NY, 1966!
4 Tbsp. butter
½ cup scallions
3 cups chopped, unpeeled cucumber
¾ cup diced peeled potatoes
1 cup watercress leaves
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream**
1 cup milk
Salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
Minced chives or chervil for garnish*
Heat the butter and wilt the scallions in it. Add the cucumber, potatoes and chicken broth and simmer together for 15 minutes. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, add the watercress leaves. They impart a sharp tang and pleasant green color to the soup. Salt and pepper to taste. Puree in a blender, then stir in the milk and cream. Chill for 2 hours in a nonmetallic container. Garnish with minced chives or chervil or a mixture of both herbs.
*I use minced fresh dill
** I use ¼ cup cream, ¾ cup half & half and add more milk if the soup is too thick.
Daniel Boulud’s Refreshing CHILLED CUCUMBER SOUP
This soup is super elegant when served with the grissini – slender Italian breadsticks – as a garnish. I’ve made it for luncheons and am always asked for the recipe. As you can see, it is considerably more time consuming than the previous two recipes but well worth it for a special occasion.
4 large English cucumbers (about 3 lbs)
½ large red onion, chopped*
2 cups spinach leaves, packed
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 Tsp. olive oil
1 lb. Idaho potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 cup plain Greek yogurt**
¼ cup heavy cream
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt, Pepper and Tabasco sauce to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and set a bowl of ice water on the side. Peel the cucumber, reserve the skins and roughly chop the flesh. Boil the cucumber peels with the spinach leaves until tender, about 4 minutes, then chill in the ice water. Drain, squeeze dry and set aside.
In a large sauce pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, potatoes and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until onions are tender but NOT browned, about 5 minutes. Add half of the cucumber flesh and just enough water to cover. Simmer for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Remove from heat and chill. (My version: set aside to cool).
In a blender, combine chilled mixture with the cooked peels and spinach, remaining cucumber flesh, yogurt and cream (you may need to do this in batches). Puree until very smooth, then pass through a fine mesh sieve. (I know that’s the proper thing to do but I cheat and skip the sieve).
Chill the soup. When ready to serve, adjust the seasoning with lemon juice, Tabasco sauce, salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, garnish with:
½ bunch dill*, chopped fine and combined with 1 cup plain Greek yogurt, zest and juice of 1 lemon. Top each soup serving with a spoonful of the dill yogurt mix. Serve the remaining yogurt on the side.
*remaining ½ onion and ½ bunch dill are used below to make garnished grissini sticks.
**I will use whatever yogurt I have but I do try to buy Greek, plain, when I shop for this dish.
Boulud also suggests garnished grissini sticks to serve with the soup: Wrap small slices of smoked salmon around one end of each stick, then garnish with minced red onion (from the half left over from the soup), and remaining dill leaves (the other half of the bunch). Lay one stick on the edge of the soup plate.
If you want to see a picture go to elledecor.com/Daniel and enter cucumber soup into Search. This was published in Elle Décor magazine, can’t tell you what year, the page I tore out doesn’t say, but Elle Décor at the bottom states “for more Daniel Boulud recipes, go to elledecor.com/Daniel)