Sunday, July 28, 2013

A summer starter and a side: My Chilled Cucumber Soup and Marinated Summer Vegetables adapted from Bon Appetit

         A bowl of chilled soup can really start a summer meal off right.
Make enough of it, and anytime you want, there’s a bowl of cool comfort waiting in the fridge.   As to today’s side, it’s a terrific way to have vegetables on hand and at the ready.  You do a simple roast of the farm stand’s best, then while warm douse them with a marinade with just enough garlic and fresh oregano to give them some lift.  I wish I could say the Cucumber soup was farm stand material. The recipe calls for something from fairly far away. All the way from a greenhouse in California.
Far from the Farm Stand 
As far I can see the English Cucumber has about much to do with England as the English Muffin—both triumphs of American marketing! 
All cucumbers came to us via India but cucumbers have been cultivated virtually everywhere on earth for hundreds of years.  The English Cucumber is an ordinary everyday cousin of the common cuke. That being said, they’re prized for their thin, edible skin and their relative seedless-ness.  And that’s why they’re used here:  Half the cucumber is pureed, the other half goes into the soup in a dice.  Greek yogurt adds to the cool.  Dill greens it further.  And never leave out the croutons. They’re a whole reason to keep days old bread.  They’re a snap to make.  
I can’t get enough of summer’s best vegetables.  They’re glorious right now.  So I doubled a recipe I’d seen in Bon Appetit. This is the kind of thing that you can put into mason jars and store in the fridge for weeks.  Pull it out and let the olive oil un-cloud and it’s perfect buffet item.  You can use these marinated vegetables in sandwiches too—think provolone and salami or mozzarella and beef. As to required peeling of the peppers, I will only say, it was surprisingly simple but oh so worthwhile.  Here are the recipes:

Recipe for Chilled Cucumber Soup
Serves 4 (can easily be doubled) Active Time; 15 Minutes Total Time with chilling 1 hr 15 minutes.

1 long English Cucumber, peeled and diced, in ½ inch pieces
2 cups Greek Yogurt Plain
1 cup Vegetable Stock or Broth
2 scallions, diced, white and green parts
1 Lemon
Fresh Dill (Chopped)
Fresh Parsley (Chopped)

In a large bowl, combine the Greek yogurt and the Vegetable Broth, stirring with a whisk. Set aside.  

In a food processor with the metal blade attached, puree ½ the peeled, diced cucumber, the scallions, 2 tbsp. dill, 2 tbsp. parsley.
Add the cucumber mixture to the large bowl of yogurt and stock and add the juice ½ lemon, 2 tsp. of salt.  Whisk to combine.
Refrigerate 1 hour.  When served, garnish each bowl with chopped dill and croutons.

To Make the Croutons:
I keep bread in the house even if I am the only one eating it.  It’s just not home without bread.  So I inevitably end up with ends of loaves that are too far gone for a sandwich but which make the best breadcrumbs and crostini and as here, croutons.  You cube the bread, pre heat the oven, toss the breadcubes in olive oil and into the oven they go. I can’t give you quantities here but for enough croutons for this recipes, you’ll want about 7 a bowl, so count your croutons. The crispy bits float on the soup and give you more crunch than say, a cucumber.

Days Old Bread – preferably a European style loaf.
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Garlic Cloves, Halved, rubbed over the bread slices.

Preheat Oven to 375 degrees.
Slice bread at least ½ inch thick then cube it so all the pieces
are relatively the same size.
With your hands, toss the bread to coat lightly with olive oil.
Put the croutons in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. 
Put the croutons in the oven, checking every 5 minutes on their progress and turning them at the first 5 minute mark. You want them to be golden brown not burned.  Depending on size, they may be done in 10 minutes, or as mine were, at 15. 

Recipe for Marinated Summer Vegetables adapted from Bon Appetit
12 Portions. Active Time. 30 minutes. Total Time. 1 ½ hours.

2 Yellow summer squash and 2 zucchini (about 4 pounds), sliced on a diagonal 1/2" thick
6 red, orange, or yellow bell peppers, cut into 1" strips
8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
6 garlic cloves
4 tablespoons Sherry or red wine vinegar
8 sprigs oregano

Place racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 475°. Place squash and peppers on separate baking sheets. Drizzle each sheet of vegetables with 1/2 tablespoons oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
Spread out in a single layer, turning peppers skin side up.

Roast peppers on upper rack and squash on lower rack, turning squash once, until tender, 15-20 minutes. Let cool slightly; remove skins from peppers.
Whisk garlic, vinegar, and remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Add vegetables and oregano; toss to coat. Cover and let sit at least 1 hour.

DO AHEAD: Vegetables can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill; bring to room temperature before serving.


  1. Shame on me! I had not even THOUGHT of Cucumber soup in the longest time! And you are so right, the vegees right now, perfection. Sweetly roasted and paired with a chilled soup.... Ahhhhhhhh

  2. Ana, I think you will love these. Soup so refreshing, it's a real pick-me-up and the vegetables are such a boon on hot days. Enjoy!