It came in a large bowl with ice floating with the slices of crisp cucumber, tomato, garlic bread, green and red peppers, and the coarsely peppered liquid that tasted lightly of oil and vinegar.
"It's a salad soup," Catherine said.
"Es gazpacho," the waiter said. -- Ernest Hemingway, "The Garden of Eden" (Scribner's, 1986)
From Latin America to Europe to Asia, chilled soups are standard in the repertoire of the world's cuisines. They may be made of vegetables or fruits or fish, based on milk or cream, chicken or beef broth, wine or beer stocks, and turn out thin and light or thick and substantial.
Whatever form they take, though, cold soups play an important role in hot weather cooking, making meals palatable and the cook grateful for their make-ahead ease of preparation.
To highlight their pretty colors, serve them in glass bowls, and to keep them really cold, throw in a few ice cubes. Complement savory cold soups with french bread or pita, and sweeter fruit soups with croissants or sweet rolls. Add an extra fillip by garnishing with lemon twists, chopped parsley, mint leaves, minced chives, zucchini or nasturtium flowers, saute'ed almonds or croutons, miniature profiteroles, dumplings, bacon bits or chopped hard-cooked eggs. Calorie counters will appreciate the fact that cold soups are not likely to be loaded with too much fat, and eating soup at the beginning of a meal takes the edge off a ravenous appetite.
Gazpacho surely is the queen of cold soups. In his typically understated style, Hemingway says all that needs to be said about the most familiar and popular of all cold soups in the gazpacho scene in "The Garden of Eden," recently published posthumously. His main characters, Catherine and David, are resting in a cafe with thick stone walls after a tiring visit to the Prado Museum in Madrid. The waiter suggests they order gazpacho, a dish then unfamiliar to Americans.
Today, in contrast, most people know and love the salad-soup of Spain, where regional variations make eating gazpacho a never-ending journey of culinary discovery. Hemingway's acquaintance, Alice B. Toklas, describes in her cookbook her trip through Spain tasting gazpacho at every stop and finding it different every time.
Commonly, gazpacho begins with a tomato base, using either fresh pure'ed tomatoes, or tomato juice for easier preparation. The rest of the vegetables may also be liquefied in a food processor and the dish garnished with chopped vegetables served separately, or all the vegetables may be chopped and mixed with the base. Bread crumbs may be stirred in for body, or garlic croutons made of french bread may be sprinkled on top.
But tomatoes are not essential. The Spanish enjoy as well gazpacho blanco, made with almonds, and the Portuguese prepare green gazpacho. Red, white or green, gazpacho is a summer favorite -- cooling and filling enough to constitute a whole meal. But while it probably is the most popular cold soup, it certainly is not the only one worth eating.
Vichyssoise, another well-known cold soup, is a thick potato pure'e (also known as potage parmentier) first served iced at the Ritz in New York where the chef, Louis Diat, introduced it and named it for his native Vichy in France. Seasoned with saute'ed leeks and onion, perhaps a bit of bacon, enriched with cream and enlivened with cayenne pepper and worcestershire sauce, the lowly potato produces a sublime potage.
Also a familiar sight on French restaurant menus is Senegalese soup, named for the African country but certainly Indian inspired. Curry powder is the dominant flavor of the chicken broth and cream combination. If the curry powder is fresh and aromatic, preferably purchased in an Indian grocery store under the name garam masala, this soup can be a simple-to-prepare yet tasty starter to a summer repast. Authentic Indian cold soups often use lentils, coconut and avocadoes with or without curry seasonings.
Many other cream soups are made with cucumbers, zucchini, avocadoes and spinach. Yogurt makes a good, low-calorie, low-fat substitute for cream, perhaps combined with a grain or thinned with water for a soup with Middle Eastern overtones. Milk, especially tangy buttermilk, also often serves as the basis for chilled soups. The Dutch combine buttermilk with barley and frankfurters for Kruudmoes, and the Germans flavor the buttermilk with sugar, lemon and vanilla for Kaernemaelkskoldskaal, a dessert soup. Greek avgolemono soup, enriched with eggs and orzo, though usually eaten hot, tastes good cold, too.
Serving borscht brings visions of old Russia to the dinner table. Beets, an ingredient common to most versions, produce a deep purple, slightly sweet broth that is nicely set off with a dollop of sour cream. Meatless borschts are especially agreeable in summer, eaten with thick slices of black bread lathered with sweet butter.
A culturally related soup is schav, made of sorrel or sour grass and served cold. It can be made at home without too much trouble, but surprisingly good-tasting commercial interpretations are available in the supermarket. Schav's tartness makes it particularly welcome on a sweltering day, and it is almost light enough to drink. Some people like schav with chopped hard-cooked egg or sour cream on top. Other sorrel soups have long been appreciated all over Europe as well. In an important 16th-century English cookbook, the author, Henry Buttes, recorded his favorite recipes, still a hot day delight.
Tomatoes, cabbage, carrots, eggplants, spinach, asparagus, watercress and parsley are some of the other vegetables that have a place in the cold soup pantheon. But why stop with them? Traditional thinking is the only constraint to what the imagination can create when it comes to concocting refreshing soups for summer dining.
In Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands and Germany, fruits are frequently pure'ed, sweetened, garnished with whipped cream and served for dessert. But fruit soups can also begin a meal if they are not too saccharine. The International Apple Institute developed a recipe for using apples with potatoes, onions, cucumber, celery and chicken broth for a savory soup suited for before-meal appetite-whetting. And in the 19th century, the Pennsylvania Dutch cooked wild huckleberries with potatoes for a cooling midsummer refreshment.
VICHYSSOISE (Cream of Potato Soup) (8 servings)
In summer, Washingtonians enjoy a trip into the Virginia countryside for dinner at Chez Francois, an institution in the area since 1954 when it opened in the Claridge Hotel. This recipe for chef Francois Haeringer's version of this much-varied soup is preserved in "The Chez Francois Cookbook," written by his son Jacques (Reston Publishing, 1985).
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
1 cup finely sliced leeks
2 tablespoons flour
1 quart chicken broth
2-inch piece bacon rind, optional
2 1/2 cups peeled and sliced potatoes
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
Melt the butter in a heavy pot over low heat. Add the onion and leeks and cook without browning, stirring often for 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the flour and add stock and bacon rind. Bring to a full boil. Add potatoes, salt and pepper and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
Discard rind and pure'e soup in a food processor or blender. Push through a strainer and chill. Just before serving, blend in cream with a whisk and add chives, parsley, worcestershire sauce, cayenne and lemon juice. SENEGALESE SOUP (Curried Chicken Soup) (4 servings)
The Bombay Palace in Washington has a cookbook (Caravan Publishing, 1985), that lists Senegalese soup under the section labeled "Indian Food Beyond India," claiming that although the dish is not authentic, it is still pleasant. This recipe is adapted from the Bombay Palace's hot version.
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon flour
2 cups hot chicken broth
1 cup julienned cooked chicken
2 tablespoons Major Grey's chutney
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup whipping cream
4 teaspoon minced chives
In a heavy saucepan melt butter and blend in curry powder. Stir and cook 1 minute. Stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Add hot broth all at once, stir vigorously, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add chicken and chutney. Simmer 10 minutes. Beat egg yolks and add 1 tablespoon hot soup. Add to soup. Bring soup almost to the boiling point. Chill. Just before serving, stir in cream and sprinkle with chives. EASY GAZPACHO (8 servings)
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, finely minced and mashed
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
8 cups tomato juice
6 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 onions, chopped
1 avocado, chopped (optional)
Croutons for garnish
Beat together oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, hot pepper sauce and parsley. Stir into tomato juice. Add tomatoes, green pepper and onions. Chill well. Just before serving, stir in avocado. Sprinkle with croutons. COLD MUSSEL SOUP (4 servings)
This recipe is a summer special at the Micheline in Georgetown.
2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and bearded
2 small onions, quartered
3 shallots, chopped
3 sprigs parsley
1 cup dry white wine
Salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon saffron
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/4 cups whipping cream
4 thin lemon slices
2 teaspoons caviar
In a dutch oven place mussels, onions, shallots, parsley, wine, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Shake pan until all mussels are open, about 10 minutes. Remove mussels and strain liquid through a cheesecloth. Place in a saucepan and add saffron and butter. Bring to a boil. Remove mussels from shell and pure'e in a food processor. Stir into liquid and strain again. Add cream. Chill well. To serve, divide soup among 4 bowls. Float a lemon slice on top of each and place 1/2 teaspoon caviar on top of each lemon slice. COLD MALABAR AVOCADO COCONUT SOUP (6 servings)
In "Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking" (Morrow, 1985), her latest book, Julie Sahni says the Malabar Muslims in Kerala created this soup "to bring out the flavor of avocado and bind it in harmony with the sweetness of coconut and spices."
1 large ripe avocado
1 cup flaked fresh coconut, or unsweetened packaged coconut
1 cup plain yogurt
1 large clove garlic
2 hot green chilies
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt to taste
3 cups water
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander
Peel and pit the avocado. Cut off 6 thin slices, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for garnish. Put remaining avocado, coconut, yogurt, garlic, chilies, cumin, lemon juice, salt and 1 cup of the water in a food processor or blender and process until liquefied. Add another 1/2 cup water and blend. Transfer to a bowl and stir in remaining water. Chill. Garnish with avocado slices and coriander. ANDRE'S CONSOMME A LA MENTHE MADININA (4 servings)
This refreshing summer soup is served at Madinina, Andre Rosine's Martinique restaurant in Paris, and its garlicky chicken broth suggests the Caribbean influence of his native Martinique.
4 cups homemade chicken broth made with garlic, strained
1/2 cup dry white wine
8 sprigs fresh mint
1 tablespoon light cream
Combine stock, wine and mint and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, until cool. Place in a food processor or blend and process for 2 to 3 seconds, just long enough to bruise but not pure'e mint leaves. Strain. Add cream and chill well. Skim fat from surface before serving. CHERRY SOUP (2 servings)
2 cups sweet or sour cherries, pitted
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar or to taste
1 cinnamon stick
4 slices lemon
2 teaspoons kirsch (cherry brandy)
2 crushed macaroons for garnish
Whipped cream for garnish
Place cherries, water, sugar, cinnamon stick and lemon slices in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick. Stir in kirsch. Chill well. Sprinkle macaroon crumbs over top and garnish with whipped cream. BUTTE'S SORREL SOUP (4 servings)
2 pounds sorrel (or substitute spinach)
1 1/2 quarts cold water
6 tablespoons lemon juice
1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons sour cream
Sliced hard-cooked eggs for garnish
Pure'e sorrel in a food processor. Transfer to a saucepan and add water. Bring to a boil and cook 10 minutes. Cool slightly and add lemon juice. Thin egg with some of the soup and then add mixture to soup. Chill. Thin sour cream with a little soup and gradually beat mixture into remaining soup. Garnish with hard-cooked eggs, if desired.
From "The Delectable Past" by Esther Aresty (Simon and Schuster, 1964). APPLE INSTITUTE APPLE SOUP (6 servings)
1 pint chicken broth
1 medium potato, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 celery heart with leaves, chopped
1 tart apple, peeled and chopped
1 cup light cream
1 tablespoon butter
1 scant teaspoon curry powder
Pepper to taste
Chopped chives for garnish
Bring broth to a boil in a saucepan. Add potato, onion, cucumber, celery and apple and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Pure'e in a blender or food processor. Stir in cream, butter, curry powder and pepper. Chill thoroughly. Sprinkle with chives and serve. COLD SPINACH SOUP (6 servings)
Barbara Bush contributed this simple recipe to the 1983 "National Symphony Orchestra Cookbook," a collection of celebrity recipes.
10-ounce package frozen, chopped spinach, cooked
4 chicken bouillon cubes
4 cups light cream
1/4 cup dry vermouth
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
2 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
Pure'e cooked spinach in a blender or food processor. Add bouillon cubes to cream and scald cream in a double boiler, stirring until cubes dissolve. Remove from heat and stir in spinach, vermouth, mace and lemon rind. Chill. Top with eggs and serve.