Chilled Cucumber-Basil Soup

To be honest, for much of my eating life, I have been pretty cool toward chilled soups. They seem like glorified smoothies, sometimes, just a bowl of puree with no real heft or intensity. But of late, with the unrelenting heat, I’ve decided to re-think my bias.

Since it’s too darn hot to really cook much or eat anything hot, I thought I would try to concoct something both cooling and filling.I thought I might create something, and think it through as I went.

Sauteing an onion created a little complexity and savoriness, so it would seem more like soup. Cucumbers are classic in cold soups, and provided a nice body to the soup. But, I wanted some protein, so I pureed some slivered almonds. To make it creamy and rich, an avocado was the perfect addition.

Since so many cold soups rely on yogurt, I thought this would be a good spot to try the new non-dairy yogurt I just bought. This new one, called “Amande,” is made with cultured almond milk. It’s really tasty, although it’s not particularly tangy, so I added some rice vinegar to give it some zing.

I have big, bushy basil plants in my garden, so a nice handful of basil leaves made the soup both tasty and extra green.

This kind of an experiment would work equally well with much of what is so bountiful right now. Sweet corn, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, you name it. If you add them to the sauteed onion and cook, they will become tender enough to puree easily, or you can go raw, with some veggies. Season and adjust to suit your taste, and remember that all the flavors will become muted when thoroughly cold, so you may want to amp it up just a little.

Just build in the good plant-based nuts, avocado and nut milk, and it will be a real meal.

Cold Cucumber-Basil Soup

This makes a cooling first course, or with a nice whole grain bruschetta, it can be a meal. Just give yourself time to get it completely cold before serving.

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1/4 cup slivered almonds

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup vegetable stock

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced

1 medium avocado, pit removed, flesh scooped out

1/2 cup non-dairy yogurt

1 teaspoon rice vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

julienned basil and cracked pepper for serving

1. In a medium pot, heat the olive oil for a few seconds, then add the onions. Saute over medium heat until it softens, then reduce heat for another ten minutes or so, to get a little golden color. Add the cucumber and continue to cook until the cukes are softened, just about five minutes.

2. In a blender, combine the almonds and basil and process until finely chopped. Add the stock and puree until smooth. Add the saute from the pan, the avocado, yogurt, vinegar and salt, and puree. Transfer to a storage container and chill for at least two hours, covered.

3. Serve garnished with julienned basil, or toasted slivered almonds.