The Soups Of Summer
Hot. Muggy. Summer in Virginia. Finally. Sigh…
I can’t really complain, July having been relatively cool, but now it’s hot. It’s time for cold lemonade, lots of ice teas, dishes that do not heat up the kitchen (it’s being heated enough with canning)… like cold soups. You know, either the ones to which you never have to apply heat (think Gazpacho) or the ones that you can throw together from precooked ingredients, especially from left over, and a few garden fresh things – like my Sorrel Vichyssoise.
Many people are not familiar with sorrel in the United States. A shame really, because it is one of the few perennial vegetables for temperate climates, very easy to grow, and pretty much care free. Yes, it can look a little raggedy in the summer, but it’ll perk up in the fall providing nice tender leaves for salads again. In summer, the leaves get a little tougher faster than in cool weather, but are still eminently usable, especially when pureed for sauces or soup. I often use it in my cooking workshops, introducing a new taste to students, and every body opens big eyes at the taste, loving it.
Many traditional sorrel soup recipes call for cooking the sorrel – which turns a rather dirty green if you ask me. I don’t cook it which makes a vibrant green colored soup – and also add a little parsley or leaf celery (aka parcel) for additional greenness and for balance. But not too much! Both parsley and parcel have a rather assertive taste that needs to be kept on the tame side in this soup.
The soup body is provided by a combination of very lightly cooked (steamed or nuked) zucchini and some already cooked potatoes (boiled, steamed or nuked) or mashed potatoes. Both of those vegetable are mild, letting the herbs shine through.
And the secret for my soup is… onion. But not any onion: yellow onions, lightly salted, sweated in olive oil over a low fire in a thick bottomed pan for 1 hour or more until colored (but not brown): they become translucent, velvety in texture – almost melting – and incredibly mellow – what some people call onion confit, except there should be no added sugar in there. In fact, it’s the type of onions one must make for a successful pissaladiere. The real kind. Anyway, a handful of such onion thrown in the blender also adds body and balance to the soup. Not everybody agrees about onions in a Sorrel Vichyssoise, but listen, jp, you should try it this way once. You may like it…
Oh, if you do use leeks instead of onions, cook the leeks in a similar manner, until they are almost melting.
Proportions? all a matter of taste, how thick or how thin you want your soup (will you eat it with a spoon or will you sip it from a cup?), and what (and how much) left over you have on hand.
– ½ cup already slow-cooked onions or slow-cooked leeks
– 2 already cooked potatoes, or ½ cup to 1 cup mash potatoes or lightly cooked zucchini or other green squash (steamed for 3 minutes) – or both
– 1 large bunch of sorrel leaves, stems removed
– 1 very small bunch of parsley or parcel (aka leaf celery), stems removed
– Quality chicken broth, start with 1 cup, add more to the desired texture
– ½ and ½ (or whipping cream, or light cream), start with 1 cup – add more as desired
– Salt & pepper to taste
Process all in blender until very smooth and desired thickness is reached. Start with a small amount of liquid, and add a little of each ingredients progressively.
(Hint: It’s better to make it in small batches, and blend everything back together by hand for the final soup than trying to cram everything into the blender at once.)
Photo by my friend Bruce Jones, who had great fun photographing our 2009 Bastille Day dinner (where we served Sorrel Vichyssoise).