Sweet and savory summer soups are very cool

For Jewish immigrants, soups were an integral part of the cuisine and in times of poverty a cheap and sustaining way to feed a family. A leftover bone, vegetables that were discounted at the end of the day because they were a bit wilted, a few hunks of yesterday’s bread and some beans produced a tasty, satisfying, nutritious and warming dinner in a bowl, especially in cold weather.

Summer soups, however, depended a bit more on bright, fresh ingredients — like beets for a ruby red borscht, emerald green spinach and sorrel for a sprightly Schav, or ripe fruits for refreshing, chilled, warm-weather fare. These soups were meant to cool and revive the palate after a hot day of labor.

Today, cold soups, sweet and savory, remain a popular dish using traditional ingredients with a contemporary twist. I like to serve the sweet, fruit-based chilled soups as a desert, topped with ice cream or crème fraiche.

Schav | Serves 6

1 lb. sorrel*, coarsely chopped
6 scallions, trimmed and chopped
8 cups water
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups sour cream
Salt and pepper
1 lb. small red new potatoes, scrubbed, cooked and diced
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced

In a large saucepan, simmer sorrel and scallions in water about 20 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper. Whisk about 1 cup soup into egg until well blended. Whisk egg mixture back into soup. Remove to a bowl and chill. Stir in the sour cream until well blended and taste for salt and pepper. Add the potatoes and cucumber and serve.

*If you can’t find sorrel, substitute baby spinach and add 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice.

Plum-Cinnamon Soup | Serves 4 to 6

2 lbs. plums, quartered and pitted
3 tsp. 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
1/2 to 1 cup water

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 1/2 to 1 cup water. Chill. Serve sprinkled with remaining almonds.

Golden Borscht | Serves 6-8

4 medium golden beets, peeled and grated
2 carrots, peeled and grated
1 yellow or red bell pepper, diced
1 onion, chopped
6 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
salt and pepper
fresh dill
1 lb. small potatoes, boiled

In a large saucepan combine beets, carrots, pepper and onions. Add enough cold water to cover vegetables by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook about 1 hour. Stir in lemon juice and sugar. Cook another 15 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve cold, over potatoes and sprinkled with dill.

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].