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Summer in a spoon

Easy, elegant chilled fruit soups.

By Adam Ried
July 24, 2011

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Fruit desserts and salads are summer standards, but fruit soups can be a real surprise. Sweet but not too much so, these chilled soups also contain savory elements, such as wine or vinegar or shallots as well as salt and pepper. They’re great served with brunch, a light summer lunch, or as part of a summer evening meal (either a first course or a palate-refresher midway through).

I have two quick hints for enjoying cold soups. First, chilling the serving bowls is a very nice touch. Pull out a stack of bowls when you begin the recipe so you’ll remember to put them into the fridge along with the soup to chill. Second, cold temperatures can dull flavors slightly, so don’t forget to taste and re-season the soup just before serving.
Plum and Blackberry Borscht

Makes about 2½ quarts

This soup is thick and tart, but it’s easy to adjust to your taste. If you wish, sweeten it with a little extra sugar or thin it with a bit of either water or apple juice. Adapted from Nicole Routhier’s Fruit Cookbook, by Nicole Routhier (Workman 1996).

3 pounds black or red plums, pitted and chopped (about 7½ cups)

5 cups (about 2½ pints) blackberries, washed

2½ cups fruity red wine, such as merlot or pinot noir

1¼ cups sugar

2 3-inch cinnamon sticks

Pinch ground cloves

Salt

1 cup half-and-half or light cream, plus whipped cream for garnish, if desired

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the plums, 3½ cups of the blackberries, wine, sugar, cinnamon sticks, a tiny pinch of cloves, and ¼ teaspoon salt to a strong simmer. Adjust the heat to medium-low, partially cover the pan, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the plums and berries are soft and collapsed, about 8 minutes. Off heat, cool mixture to room temperature.

Put the mixture through a strainer or a food mill (you should have about 9 cups); discard the solids. Add the half-and-half or cream and whisk to blend. Add the remaining blackberries, cover, and chill well, at least 4 hours. Before serving, stir the soup, taste and adjust the seasoning with additional salt and sugar, if necessary, and serve garnished with a small dollop of whipped cream, if using.
Strawberry Soup with Balsamic Drizzle

Makes about 2 quarts

1 teaspoon grated zest plus ¾ cup juice from

1 large orange

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1/3 cup sugar

1 quart strawberries, halved

3 cups plain yogurt

1½ tablespoons rice vinegar

Salt and pepper

¾ cup balsamic vinegar

In a blender, process the orange and lemon zest and sugar until the sugar is moist and fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add the orange juice, strawberries, yogurt, rice vinegar, and a pinch of salt and puree until liquid, uniform, and smooth, about 1 minute. Pour the mixture into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate to chill, at least 4 hours.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the balsamic vinegar to a strong simmer. Adjust the heat to medium and simmer, swirling pan occasionally, until reduced by half, about 8 minutes. Set syrup aside off heat to cool and thicken.

Before serving, stir the soup, taste and adjust the seasoning with additional salt or rice vinegar, if necessary, and pepper to taste, and serve garnished with a grinding of pepper and a drizzle of the balsamic syrup.
Savory Minted Cucumber, Grape, and Apple Soup

Makes about 2½ quarts

3 cups green seedless grapes

3 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped (about 5 cups)

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

1½ tablespoons sugar

Salt and pepper

1½ cups apple juice

2 cups plain yogurt

1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled and finely chopped

1 medium shallot, finely chopped

Reserve ½ cup each of the grapes and the chopped cucumbers and set aside. In a blender, puree the remaining grapes, chopped cucumbers, 1/3 cup mint, sugar, ¾ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and apple juice until smooth and uniform. Pour the mixture into a bowl, add the yogurt, and whisk to combine.

Quarter the reserved grapes and finely chop the reserved cucumber; add them, the apple, and the shallot to the soup and stir to mix. Cover and refrigerate to chill, at least 4 hours.

Before serving, stir the soup, taste and adjust the seasoning with additional salt and pepper, if necessary, and serve, sprinkling each serving with some of the reserved chopped mint.
Orange and Peach Gazpacho

Makes about 2½ quarts

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon finely grated zest and 2 cups juice from about 5 medium oranges

4 medium-large ripe peaches (about 2 pounds), skinned and halved

3 tablespoons sherry vinegar

Salt and pepper

2 medium navel oranges, chopped

1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped (about 1 cup)

2 medium shallots, finely chopped

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro or basil

In a blender, process the sugar and orange zest until the sugar is moist and fragrant, about 10 seconds. Chop 5 of the peach halves and add them, the orange juice, 2 cups water, the vinegar, and 1¼ teaspoons salt to the blender and puree until liquid, uniform, and smooth, about 40 seconds. Pour the mixture into a bowl.

Chop the remaining 3 peach halves and add them, the chopped navel oranges and cucumber, and the shallots, stir to mix, cover, and refrigerate to chill, at least 4 hours.

Before serving, stir the soup, taste and adjust the seasoning with additional salt or vinegar, if necessary, and pepper to taste, and serve, sprinkling each serving with some of the chopped cilantro or basil.

Send comments or suggestions to Adam Ried at cooking@globe.com.

THINK PINK Red or black plums and blackberries give this borscht its gorgeous color. (Photograph by Jim Scherer; Styling by Catrine Kelty) THINK PINK Red or black plums and blackberries give this borscht its gorgeous color.

KITCHEN AIDE
Pureeing particulars

Most of these soups are pureed in a blender, but I wasn’t crazy about the extra frothiness it imparted to the Plum and Blackberry Borscht. For a slightly smoother, more elegant texture, I prefer to work this mixture through a strainer using a wooden spoon. This isn’t difficult, but it does require a bit of time and patience.

Using a food mill instead will speed up the process. Once a kitchen fixture, food mills fell out of favor as food processors became popular. Comprising a metal or plastic body with a perforated base and a hand-cranked blade, food mills puree and strain simultaneously. If you have a (nonreactive) food mill around, the borscht recipe is the perfect use for it.