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Chilled soups offer refreshing appetizers for summer meals

Soup, when it’s 110 degrees out? Sure. Nobody said soup has to be served hot.

Carlos Guia, executive chef of The Country Club at Wynn Las Vegas, featured a chilled pea soup on his menu during the spring and recently switched to a watermelon gazpacho.

“It’s very fresh-tasting and super refreshing,” Guia said. “When you come in if you’ve been outside and it’s 114 or some crazy…. It’s one of those appetizers where you can eat it without feeling like you ate too much.”

Matthew Silverman, executive chef for Corrigan Management Inc. restaurants, which include Vintner Grill and the Roadrunners, features cold soups at the former and likes them for a different reason.

“To me, it’s a great way to showcase the ingredients’ flavor,” Silverman said. “Sometimes when you cook things, the flavor goes out of it. Keeping it fresh and cold provides a different textural experience and allows those ingredients’ flavors to shine through.”

Paul Lee, executive chef of Le Cirque at Bellagio, where he currently has a traditional gazpacho on the menu, pointed out that because of that emphasis, the flavors being showcased have to be top-notch, such as heirloom tomatoes.

“I think the best thing about cold soup is because it’s very simple, you don’t add too much to it,” he said. “The ingredients themselves need to be very good; the tomatoes need to be very good. You don’t want to add sugar to it; you need that natural sweetness.”

Chilled soups can involve either fruits, vegetables or both. Which do the chefs favor? Well, they point out, since the tomato — the main ingredient in gazpacho, arguably the most popular of cold soups — actually is a fruit, that makes that one a crossover. Lee said he has made chilled soups with cantaloupe or honeydew, and, like Guia, sometimes makes a watermelon gazpacho.

“I like both, for different purposes,” Silverman said, adding that he’s made dessert soups with chilled apricots, either pureed or chunky-style.

“We’ve done a lot, and I like them all,” he said.

Silverman noted that one interesting aspect of chilled soups is the ingredients that can be added.

“We like to play with textures and have ingredients we can put on top of them that are more room temperature or crispy that will play with texture and temperature,” he said. For example, when the restaurant serves yellow gazpacho, which gets its color and flavor from yellow tomatoes, curry and turmeric, guests are offered a medley of vegetables including fennel, plus crisp croutons and other ingredients that give textural contrast to the smooth soup.

Guia finishes his watermelon gazpacho (the recipe for which follows) with a tian of jumbo crabmeat and avocado, dressed with lime juice and olive oil, and topped with micro cilantro and yuca crisps.

“We’ve been doing it for a few years,” he said. “It’s one of the favorites. It’s a little bit different and people have enjoyed it over the years.”

So consider adding soup — cold soup — to your summer menu.

“Especially when you’re out there where it’s this hot,” Lee said, “or like when I worked in New York for a couple of years, where it was really humid.

“It’s very nice to have something fresh, I think, before the meal or even in the afternoon to freshen up the palate.”

WATERMELON GAZPACHO

6 cups watermelon, peeled and diced

½ cup roasted red peppers, de-seeded and rinsed

1 cucumber, peeled

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (divided use)

½ cup grenadine, or to taste

½ cup Bacardi Gran Melon Rum

3 dashes Tabasco

Kosher salt, to taste

1 small yuca root

2 ripe avocados

½ cup micro cilantro leaves

¾ pound jumbo lump crabmeat

1 teaspoon black sesame seeds

Vegetable oil for frying, as needed

Puree watermelon, red peppers and cucumber with 2 tablespoons lime juice, grenadine, rum, Tabasco and salt until the mixture is very smooth; taste and re-season if necessary. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

To make the yuca crisps, heat oil in a fryer to 325 degrees. Peel all of the outer bark from the root. Once the bark is removed, continue to peel the yuca into long strips. Lay yuca strips flat in the fryer basket and fry until golden brown; drain and season with salt. Keep at room temperature until ready to use.

Cut avocados in half, remove pit and very carefully slice a criss-cross pattern into the flesh without cutting into the skin. Scoop out the flesh with a spoon, place it in a bowl and season with the remaining lime juice, half of the cilantro, salt and pepper and mix well; gently fold in the crabmeat. (This should be done right before serving, so the avocado mix doesn’t start to oxidize. If you must do it earlier, press a sheet of plastic film directly onto the avocado mix to slow down the oxidation and keep refrigerated.)

To serve, place the avocado mixture in a small ring mold and place in a chilled pasta bowl. Remove the mold and ladle 1 cup of gazpacho around the avocado ring, then sprinkle the black sesame seeds over the gazpacho to resemble watermelon seeds. Place two yuca crisps over the avocado and top with a large pinch of micro cilantro.

Serves 4.

— Recipe from chef Carlos Guia, The Country Club, Wynn Las Vegas

CHILLED FRESH TOMATO SOUP

2 pounds tomatoes, cored

1 shallot, sliced thin

2 garlic cloves, unpeeled

2 teaspoons tomato paste

1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)

Pinch cayenne pepper

Salt

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

1 teaspoon sherry vinegar, plus extra as needed

Pepper (optional)

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly spray with vegetable oil spray.

Cut 1 pound tomatoes in half horizontally and arrange cut side up on prepared baking sheet. Arrange shallot and garlic cloves in single layer over 1 area of baking sheet. Roast for 15 minutes, then remove shallot and garlic cloves.

Return baking sheet to oven and continue to roast tomatoes until softened but not browned, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Peel garlic cloves and place in blender with roasted shallot and roasted tomatoes. Cut remaining 1 pound tomatoes into eighths and add to blender along with tomato paste; paprika, if using; cayenne; and ½ teaspoon salt. Puree until smooth, about 30 seconds.

With motor running, drizzle in olive oil in slow, steady stream; puree will turn orange in color.

Pour puree through fine-mesh strainer into nonreactive bowl, pressing on solids in strainer to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids. Stir in vinegar. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled and flavors have blended, at least 2 hours or as long as 24 hours.

To serve, stir soup to recombine (liquid separates on standing). Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and vinegar, as needed. Ladle soup into chilled bowls, drizzle sparingly with extra oil, and grind pepper over each, if using. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

— Recipe from Cook’s Illustrated

CHILLED COCONUT AND CORN SOUP

1 jalapeno chili, seeded and chopped

3 cups fresh corn kernels

1 can (14 ounces) light coconut milk

2½ cups water

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Fresh corn kernels, for garnish

Bring chili, corn kernels, coconut milk and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat, and simmer until corn is tender, about 20 minutes.

Filling a blender halfway and covering with a kitchen towel, puree soup in batches. Strain through a coarse sieve into a large bowl; discard solids. Season with salt and pepper.

Chill soup at least 3 hours or as long as overnight. Stir in lime juice. Garnish each serving with fresh corn kernels, if desired, and season with pepper.

Serves 4.

— Recipe from Martha Stewart Living

CHILLED MANGO AND CUCUMBER SOUP

2 mangoes, peeled and pitted (2 pounds total)

2 seedless cucumbers (usually plastic-wrapped; 1½ pounds total)

3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Finely chop 1 mango and 1 cucumber and set aside. Coarsely chop remaining mango and cucumber and puree with ¼ cup water in a blender until almost smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in finely chopped mango and cucumber, onion, lime juice and 2 cups cold water. Place bowl in a larger bowl of ice and cold water and stir until cool.

Just before serving, stir in cilantro and 1¼ teaspoons salt.

Note: Soup can also be chilled in the refrigerator until cold, but it will take about two hours.

Makes about 7 cups.

— Recipe from Gourmet magazine

CHILLED BUTTERMILK SOUP

3 cups well-shaken chilled buttermilk

½ cup sour cream

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped bottled pickled beets, plus ¼ cup pickled beet liquid

1 cup chopped seedless cucumber (usually plastic-wrapped)

½ cup chopped radish

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

Whisk together buttermilk, sour cream and salt in a bowl, then stir in remaining ingredients. Chill 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 4 first-course servings.

— Recipe from Gourmet magazine

CHILLED SUMMER-SQUASH SOUP

WITH CURRY

2 teaspoons curry powder

1¼ pounds yellow squash, cubed

½ cup chopped onion

1 14½-ounce can vegetable broth

1¾ cups low-fat buttermilk

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

½ teaspoon salt

Cook curry powder in a large saucepan over medium heat 1 minute, or until toasted. Add squash, onion and broth. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes or until tender. Place squash mixture in a blender; process until smooth. Pour mixture into a bowl; cover and chill. Stir in the buttermilk, mint and salt.

Serves 5.

— Recipe from Cooking Light

WHITE GARLIC SOUP

4 cups water

3-4 slices crusty bread, cut in large cubes

4 ounces (½ cup) almonds, blanched and skinned

3-4 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, or to taste

5 tablespoons olive oil

About a dozen seedless green grapes, cut in half

Pour water in a bowl and add bread cubes. Let soak for a few minutes.

In the meantime, place the almonds and garlic in a food processor and process to a paste.

Squeeze water from bread, reserving water. Add bread to processor and process until smooth. Add vinegar and oil and process again.

Add 2 cups of water and process again; add remaining water a little at a time until the desired consistency is reached (you probably won’t use all of the water).

Chill until cold. Add grapes right before serving.

Serves 2 to 3.

— Recipe from Las Vegas Review-Journal files

Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474.

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