On a hot summer night, there is nothing more refreshing than a bowl of soup.
If that statement made you think, “Huh?” then clearly you haven’t discovered the delicious and refreshing world of chilled soup. Just as hot soups provide a comforting buffer from winter, chilled soups are a refreshing respite from the heat of summer. While chilled soups are often too light to be a full meal, we love them as a summer starter or side dish.
The most well-known chilled soup is gazpacho, a tomato-based blend of peppers, onions, cucumbers and a long list of other vegetables blended together and spiked with the vibrant acidity of vinegar or lemon. We love a spicy bowl of gazpacho, but when we’re the ones in charge of making a chilled soup we like to keep the recipe as simple as possible and the ingredient list short. It’s summer, after all, a season better spent relaxing outdoors than cooking elaborate meals inside.
Chilled Beet Soup is all about celebrating the sweet, earthy flavor and deep, vibrant color of beets. We use just a few other ingredients to perk up the flavor, including apple cider vinegar and dill, then let the beets speak for themselves. It’s a simpler version of borscht, minus the potatoes and long cooking time. Chilled Red Pepper Soup is a little more subtle, with the red pepper sneaking up on you along with a hint of cumin. Creamy yet light with amazing flavor, we’re often tempted to slurp this soup with a straw rather than bother with a spoon.
When there’s a pork tenderloin or steak on the grill, we like a bowl of chilled beet soup on the side. We serve the chilled red pepper soup with everything from a whole grilled chicken to grilled flank steak to seafood. Instead of serving the seafood on the side, try grilling shrimp or scallops and then throw them right into the bowl after the soup is served.
Chilled soups are most refreshing when chilled completely in the refrigerator (not just at room temperature) so plan to make them a few hours before serving.
Chilled Beet Soup Spiked with Dill and Vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil**
4 cups grated beets (peel the beets and cut off the top greens)
2 carrots, grated
3 cups water, or enough to just cover the grated beets
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns or 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup finely chopped dill
2 tablespoons cider vinegar, or more to taste
Heat olive oil in a pot then sauté grated beets and carrots for 3-5 minutes.
Add water and bring to boil. Add salt and pepper and bay leaf. Cover and reduce heat slightly and simmer 15 minutes. Turn off heat.
Remove the bay leaf. Add dill and vinegar. Chill completely before serving.
**For a variation, fry a few slices of bacon and use the bacon fat to sauté the beets and carrots instead of olive oil. Crumble the bacon on top of the soup as a garnish.
Chilled Creamy Red Pepper Soup
2 roasted red bell peppers
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
1 cup chilled chicken stock
1 teaspoon cumin
Sea salt to taste
You can buy roasted red peppers or buy raw red peppers and roast them yourself.
To roast the red peppers: If you have a gas stove, place the whole pepper over the flame. The peppers can also be blackened on a grill or under a broiler. Turn as each side of the pepper blackens. Place the blackened pepper in a plastic bag or a covered container to steam briefly (so the skin is easier to remove) then rub off the blackened skin. Cut the pepper open and run under water to remove all the remaining skin and seeds.
Puree the roasted peppers in the blender with the coconut milk, chicken stock and cumin until smooth. Add sea salt to taste. Chill completely before serving.