Looks like we will continue to be sheltering at home and gathering safely with social distancing and donning masks for a while longer. But that’s a good reason to take advantage of the flexibility of home cooking, whether you are feeding your family at the table inside or a group of friends and relatives at a table outdoors.
Here are two easy soup recipes that can be either a hot meal or a chilled one, depending on the weather and your mood. They are filling and fancy enough to impress, yet easy and a good way to use fresh vegetables. Add a plate of bread or rolls plus a green salad and you’ll go from lunch/snack to dinner without missing a step.
Great way to use summer’s tomatoes
2 ½ lbs ripe red tomatoes (about 4 large or 9 small)
1 small Vidalia or yellow onion (½ lb), peeled and cut into 1″ chunks
1 small cucumber, peeled
1 medium red bell pepper, cored
¼ C fresh basil leaves, plus extra for garnish
1 large garlic clove, peeled
¼ C extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbls sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
¾ tsp fine sea salt (or any type of salt)
Freshly ground black pepper
Cut tomatoes, onion, cucumber and bell pepper into 1″ chunks and place them in the blender with the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth. Pour into a container, cover, and chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
Before serving, add more salt or pepper to taste, if necessary, and garnish soup with black pepper and a few small torn basil leaves. Serves 4.
To make this as a hot soup, do not chill, but place blended soup into a medium to large saucepan and cook slowly over low heat, stirring frequently, until heated through, about a half hour or more.
MINT PEA SOUP
Refreshing dish whether cold or hot
3 Tbls unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
4 C low-sodium vegetable broth, divided
6 C shelled fresh peas (from about 6 pounds of pods) or frozen peas, thawed
1/4 C fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/4 C fresh mint leaves
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1/4 C crème fraîche or sour cream
2 Tbls heavy cream or water
Chopped fresh chives (for serving)
Melt butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until softened but not browned, 6-8 minutes. Add 2 cups broth and bring to a boil. Add peas, reduce heat, and simmer gently until tender, about 5 minutes for fresh peas, about 2 minutes for frozen.
Remove pot from heat. Add parsley, mint, and remaining 2 cups of broth to the pot. Purée soup in a blender or with an immersion blender, thinning with water if soup is too thick, until it’s smooth. Season soup with salt and pepper.
Refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours if serving cold. Before serving, whisk crème fraîche and cream in a small bowl to blend and top as a garnish for the cold soup.
If serving hot, top with chives, and offer the crème fraîche mixture alongside for diners to spoon onto their soup. Makes 6 servings
By Jean Redstone