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 Cucumber Soup

Schneider, in her book Vegetables From Amaranth to Zucchini, has high praise for the European greenhouse and American pickling cucumbers and disdain for the ubiquitous American slicing cucumber, which she describes as waxed, flavorless and soggy.  We'll use the European greenhouse variety (the long ones that come shrink-wrapped).  This cooked cucumber soup is prepared in the French tradition, that is, it starts with one part onion, and then adds 4-5 parts of the theme veggie and chicken stock.  Seasoning of this cold soup is unusually critical.  Most recipes call for a lot of dill or basil.  Strong stuff.  I found that—with the red onion, home chicken stock and the generous but carefully test-tasted addition of salt—the cucumber comes through subtlety, not unlike the complex leek/potato flavors in a good vichyssoise. Try it yourself: make the soup, chill it, ladle out a test bowl, add some cream, taste, add some dill and taste again—you got the procedure. To my palate, adding a lot of  dill or basil to this soup would be like adding a bag piper to a string quartet. The use of cream of wheat as a taste-neutral thickener is a Julia Childs’ idea.  It works. 

Yield:  8 (5 oz) servings
See Abbreviations, if needed

·    ¾               large red onion, diced
·    2T              grapeseed or peanut oil
·    2-2½ lbs    European greenhouse cucumbers (the ones in the shrink-wrap)
·    1qt             chicken stock (or canned broth)
·                      salt and freshly ground white pepper
·    ¼ C           cream of wheat (farina), for thickener
·    ¼ C           cream, to taste

1.  Sweat diced onions in oil to translucent, about 10 minutes, don't brown
2.  Reserve about 2-inches of a cucumber for garnish.  There is no need to peel
     the cucumbers. Halve them and scoop out the seeds.  Cut the halves into 
     2-inch lengths and add them to the pot of cooked onions
3.  Salt generously (salt less if using canned broth), add same pepper
4.  Add the stock and the cream of wheat and bring to boil
5.  Reduce heat and simmer until cucumbers and thickener are very soft, 
     about 25 minutes
6.  Puree the hot soup in the pot with a stick blender, carefully (See note)
7.  Remove the pot from the fire and chill in an ice bath or fridge overnight
8.  When chilled, taste again.  Fine tune with salt and/or pepper
9.  Before serving, gradually add and stir in cream to desired taste and color (light green)
10. Serve very cold, garnish each bowl with a paper-thin slice of cucumber 
      and sliced shards of fresh basil leaves
Note:  It is safer to puree the soup after it's chilled, especially if using a standing blender. 



 With this recipe we now have, on these pages, four cold soups for summer. 


 

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