Cold soups to beat heat on summer days

Eastern European Jewish cooks had the right idea when it came to beating the heat. They made

cold soups like Russian borscht, Polish schav and Hungarian sour cherry.

Served in a glass as a cool prelude to a meal, or in a bowl accompanied by bread and cheese and perhaps some diced potatoes as a meal in itself, these refreshing, busy-day recipes can be prepared quickly with just a short stop at the stove. Simple to prepare and easy to make ahead, they are perfect choices for hot summer days.

To hasten the chilling process, fill a plastic bag with ice cubes and seal well. Put the bag in the hot soup and place in the fridge a half hour or so before serving.

Also, a sweet fruit soup can easily be turned into an elegant desert with or without a small scoop of vanilla ice cream set in the center.

Cool as a Cucumber Soup | Serves 6

6 scallions, trimmed
2 medium cucumbers, peeled and seeded
1/4 cup fresh dill sprigs
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 cups vegetable stock
1 Tbs. honey or sugar
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper
dill sprigs for garnish

Place scallions, cucumbers and dill in a food processor or blender. Process until finely chopped. Add the remaining ingredients except dill sprigs and process until smooth. Chill until very cold. Taste for salt and pepper and serve garnished with dill sprigs.

Chilled Herb and Potato Soup | Serves 6

2 Tbs. butter or vegetable oil
2 shallots, minced
1/2 cup chopped chives
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh chervil
2 Tbs. chopped fresh tarragon
2 Tbs. chopped fresh dill
1 Tbs. grated lemon zest
4 cups vegetable stock
1 cup milk
1 lb. potatoes, peeled and cooked
1/2 cup watercress leaves
salt and pepper
mixed chopped herbs for garnish

In a medium saucepan, heat butter over medium heat. Add shallots, chives, parsley, chervil, tarragon, dill and lemon zest. Cook about 2 minutes.

Add stock, bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes. In blender or food processor, puree herb mixture with milk, potatoes and watercress. Chill. Just before serving, taste for salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped herbs.

Cold Plum-Cinnamon Soup | Serves 4 to 6

2 lbs. plums, quartered and pitted
3 Tbs. brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
grated zest of 1/2 orange
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
2 cups fresh orange juice
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 cup almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 to 2 cups water (depending on desired consistency)

In a medium saucepan combine plums, brown sugar, cinnamon, orange and lemon zests, with just enough water to cover. Simmer, partly covered, until plums break down, about 12 minutes. Allow to cool slightly.

In blender or food processor, puree plum mixture with orange juice, lemon juice, half the almonds and water. Chill. Serve sprinkled with remaining almonds.

Louise Fiszer is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking.” Her columns alternate with those of Rebecca Ets-Hokin. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].