Food Is Love: Cold Cucumber Soup

Food Is Love: Cold Cucumber Soup

S has been having a hard time recently—the family emergency I mentioned last week was his, and it continues—so I wanted to do something to cheer him up. Many times (well, more than a few) he’s mentioned his fondness for cold cucumber soup, its velvety crispness, its refreshing chill. Problem is, one of the main ingredients is yogurt, and as I’ve told you all a thousand times I’m not too good with dairy. In fact, I hate it. That yogurty tang…shudder. So, selfish wife that I am, I’ve never even considered finding a recipe. But the other day I really wanted to cheer him up, and we all know there’s no better way to do that than with food, right? I’d just picked up a clutch of cucumbers at the farmer’s market, so I decided to give it a whirl.

I browsed through my cookbooks and found two promising recipes: one from the Daily Soup Cookbook, which sounded interesting—using no heat at all—but called for heavy cream (uh, no thanks), and one from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, which had fewer ingredients but did call for a little time in front of the stove. I opted for the latter, mostly because of the cream, and it took a scant twenty minutes to pull the whole thing together. I was very pleased with myself.

Until, that is, S tasted it. I’ve never tasted cold cucumber soup of any kind—did I mention I don’t like yogurt?—so I didn’t know what was “right” for S’s expectations. He was thrilled to see that I’d made it for him, but grudgingly admitted it was a little bit bland. I wasn’t surprised, actually, since the recipe is really very basic. Turns out the cucumber soup of his dreams is the one he buys from Daily Soup, so if I’d just used their recipe to begin with I’d have hit a home run. Considering that their recipe uses the same ingredients as Bittman’s plus a few more, I figured it would be worth a shot to doctor the already-finished soup and hope for the best.

It worked! S really liked the end result, and I now know how to make a mean cold cucumber soup. Still haven’t tasted it, though…

I’ll give you the recipe as I made it, which is sort of a weird amalgam. Next time I think I’ll go the Daily Soup route and skip the cooking entirely.

Cold Cucumber Soup
Adapted from How to Cook Everything and the Daily Soup Cookbook
Serves 4

2 medium or 4 small cucumbers, unpeeled
1 t. salt
2 T. butter
1 small onion, minced
4 cups chicken stock
1 T. fresh herb of your choice [basil would work, or parsley, or the evil cilantro]
Fresh ground black pepper
1 T. fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves
2 T. sugar
2 t. ground cumin [depending on the herb you use, you may want to leave this out]
¼ t. cayenne
½ cup plain yogurt

Cut a few thin slices of cucumber for garnish and set aside. Then cut the cukes in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Chop them coarsely and sprinkle with 1 t. salt. Set in a colander and let drain while you proceed with the recipe.

Place the butter in a medium saucepan and turn the heat to medium. When it melts, add the onion, turn the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about five minutes. Add the stock and the herbs.

Rinse the cukes and add them to the soup. Cook over medium heat for five minutes. Cool slightly, then puree in a blender, along with pepper, lemon juice, garlic, sugar, cumin, and cayenne. Taste and adjust seasoning, then chill.

When you’re ready to eat, adjust seasoning again, then stir in the yogurt. Garnish with reserved cucumber slices and serve.