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Beat the heat with chilled soups 

click to enlarge The author prepares the variety of chilled soups described below. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • The author prepares the variety of chilled soups described below.
August in Rochester can be grueling. Hot, sticky, sweaty. You know what I’m talking about — those miserable days when it’s 90 degrees outside with 90 percent humidity. When you’re perspiring and worrying about your air conditioner keeping up with the heat.

But you’ve still got to eat. On dog days of summer you may not want to move, much less warm up the oven or fire up the grill under a blazing sun. When that happens, it’s time for light and refreshing dishes — like chilled soup.

Ice cream and smoothies only go so far. And who wants to eat food that’s hotter than it is outside anyway?

These chilled soups are simple to make, healthy, and refreshing, and can be made ahead and stored in the fridge until you’re hungry. The best part? There’s no actual cooking involved. All three pair well with fresh bread, light sandwiches, and a chilled white wine or pale ale.


Chilled Melon & Basil Soup
SERVES 4-6
click to enlarge Sweet and herby, this chilled melon and basil soup is made with honeydew, limes, olive oil, and basil. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • Sweet and herby, this chilled melon and basil soup is made with honeydew, limes, olive oil, and basil.
A hybrid of French and Italian cuisines, chilled melon soups come in a number of varieties throughout the Mediterranean. Typically served as a summer appetizer, this soup is best in the late afternoon or early evening of a blistering hot day. Some versions combine different varieties of melon, occasionally berries are added, and even hot chili flakes and ginger make an appearance. You do you. I personally find the minimalist preparation below to be invigorating and delicious.

YOU WILL NEED:
2 honeydew melons (skin and seeds removed, cut into cubes)
1/4 cup fresh basil (stems removed, roughly chopped, more for garnish)
2 fresh limes (juiced, more to taste)
1 teaspoon olive oil
Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients into a blender or food processor and gently pulse until you have a thick puree, fine-tuning to your liking. Chill for one hour in the refrigerator before serving, garnish with fresh basil leaves, and serve chilled.


Chilled Avocado & Sour Cream Soup
SERVES 4-6
click to enlarge This avocado and sour cream chilled soup is perfect for hot days when you don't want to cook. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • This avocado and sour cream chilled soup is perfect for hot days when you don't want to cook.
This Miami-inspired soup is cool, refreshing, and earns big smiles. It’s unexpectedly earthy and vibrant on the palate, surprisingly filling, and fun. For those new to the idea of chilled soup, it is a particularly accessible option. You can jazz it up by garnishing with fresh tomato and red onion slices, but this simple version is my favorite.

YOU WILL NEED:
4 large ripe Hass avocados (skins and seeds removed)
1 English cucumber (peeled, halved, seeds removed and sliced)
1 cup vegetable stock (more if thinner consistency is desired)
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup fresh cilantro (stems removed, roughly chopped, more for garnish)
Sour cream (to taste, plus garnish)
Salt & pepper (to taste)

Combine all ingredients (except the sour cream and a small reserve of cilantro) into a blender or food processor and gently pulse until you have a thick puree, and adjust ingredients to taste. Chill for one hour in the refrigerator before serving, garnish with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkling of fresh cilantro, and serve chilled.


Tomato, Cucumber & Basil ‘Salad’
SERVES 4-6
click to enlarge Tomato, cucumber, and basil 'salad.' - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • Tomato, cucumber, and basil 'salad.'
This salad, if you can call it that, is a cross between an Italian version of salsa and a chunky Gazpacho soup. Sometimes it’s eaten with fresh, crusty Italian bread for dipping, while in other versions it’s served with bread cubes mixed into the salad just before serving. It also happens to be something my late father used to love making from tomatoes and cucumbers from his garden every summer and was a regular item on the summer dinner table of my youth.

YOU WILL NEED:
8-10 plum tomatoes (large dice)
1/2 large red onion (thin sliced)
2 cloves of garlic (roughly chopped)
2 cucumbers (peeled, halved, seeds removed, and sliced)
1/4 cup of fresh basil (stems removed, roughly chopped, more to taste)
1/4 cup fresh Italian flat leaf parsley (stems removed, roughly chopped)
1 large ball of fresh mozzarella (drained and cut into bite sized pieces)
Olive oil (to taste)
Splash of water
Salt, black pepper, and garlic salt (to taste)

Combine the prepared ingredients in a large, nonreactive bowl and gently toss by hand to combine thoroughly, occasionally squeezing to create some liquid. Cover and rest at room temperature for one hour before serving so the flavors marry and the cucumber releases its water.

Mix well again before serving. Pairs well with a thick-crust Italian bread. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

J. Nevadomski is the author of the long-running "Highlife for Lowlifes" series and is a food and culture contributor to CITY.
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