It’s July and it’s hot where I live. Is it hot where you are too? Well when it’s hot its time to consider a few changes to your culinary habits.
So I have a simple summer soup for you. Cold Spicy Cucumber Soup with Poached Shrimp. It’s a great summer starter or even a light meal all on its own. You see there is no hanging over a hot stove involved. In fact if you can boil water and count to 60, you can make this soup. I am serious this soup only requires 1 minute of actual cooking.
Because it’s not much more than a spiced splash of cucumber juice serving as a bright green pool for the simply poached shrimp to swim in. The colors are so vivid. See– don’t you feel a bit cooler already?
However there is more to a summer soup than merely chilling something flavorful. Summer soups have a whole psychology about them that must be considered when choosing how to prepare one. Because when it’s hot out a bit of spice on the tongue tricks the brain into thinking its cooler than it really is. I don’t know how and I don’t know why. But I promise you its true.
I have another great mind game that can help you deal with the summer heat. Try a new wine. Toasty oak and strong tannins can feel heavy, just adding more burdens to the tongue. Nobody wants to muscle through a glass of wine on a hot summer’s day.
Why not try a Riesling. My brother Grant has paired this summer soup with a Willamette Valley Riesling. Rieslings get such a bad rap. That’s because people have been tricked into believing that “sweet wines” are bad and “dry wines” are good. First off that’s hogwash. Sweet or dry is not what defines good wine. I know you know that, but I felt it needed saying anyway. Besides, Riesling can be bone dry. Perfect with oysters, bone dry.
Enthusiastic devotees know Rieslings as the world’s most important, most noble and most versatile of all the grapes. Capable of creating the worlds greatest white wines. Its acidity means that you can make a wine from the Riesling grape for nearly every culinary situation. You could go further into a great meal with Riesling than any other grape because it’s very complex and has more nuance and lots of variety. The only other grape that is nearly as versatile is Pinot Noir.
So what do you say? Cold soup and sweet wine? Oxymorons maybe… but then again summer heat is just a state mind.
Adapted from Jean-Georges Vongrichten & Mark Bittman
- 1 T sea salt
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1 sli stalk celery, chopped
- 1 c white wine
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 whole black peppercorns
- 20 jumbo shrimp
- 5 seedles cucumbers
- 2 green Thai bird or serrano chilis, minced
- 2 T asian fish sauce
- 1/4 c freshly squeezed limejuice
- 2 T mint leaves,, thinly sliced or minced
Mix salt, carrots, celery, white wine, bay leaves, and peppercorns in 1 quart of water in a medium-sized saucepan set over medium-high heat. Bring the liquid to a simmer.
Add the shrimp in their shells then let the water come to a boil. Cook for 60 seconds, stirring once or twice. Remove the shrimp immediately and lay out in a single layer to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until well-chilled, about 1 hour. Peel shrimp just before serving.
Make the soup: Wash the cucumbers, but do not peel them. Cut off a 6-inch piece from the center of one cucumber. Cut this piece into tiny 1/8-inch dice; set aside. Cut the rest of the cucumber into 1/2-inch chunks. Place the 1/2-inch chunks into a food processor along with 1/2 -cup water, pulse a few times to grate, then run the machine until the cucumber is completely smooth and nearly liquified.
Line a large, fine meshed strainer with 2 layers of cheesecloth. Set the lined strainer over a large bowl. Add the cucumber puree, letting the liquid fall into the bowl. then using the back of a wooden spoon press the remaining pulp to extract as much of the liquid as possible. Discard the pulp.
Add the minced green chilis, Asian fish sauce and limejuice. Chill well. (You can make in advance to this point and refrigerate for up to 2 days.)
Taste the soup, adjust seasoning if necessary with a bit more fish sauce or lime juice to taste. Avoid salt.
Ladle the cold soup into shallow bowls and serve, garnished with reserved diced cucumber, peeled poached shrimp and mint.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD