Saturday, July 16, 2011

Two Chilled Avocado Soups

If I haven’t already made it clear, allow me to do so now: I am a soup fanatic. I love to eat it, I love to make it, and I love that there are many different styles of soup, each with its own process and technique, and each wide open to numerous possibilities. There is rarely a time when I would say no to a hot, steaming bowl of delicious soup.
Except, that is, for in the middle of summer, when the weather itself is far too warm for me to want to consume anything hot and steaming. The simple solution? Cold soup! There are the classics, like vichyssoise, gazpacho, and borscht, but just like hot soups, there are many, many different variations of chilled soups. And what better candidate could there be as the main component of a cold soup than the rich and creamy avocado?
I recently tried out two different chilled avocado soups with completely different flavour profiles. The Chilled Avocado Soup Shots with Spicy Breadcrumbs from the June 2010 Bon Appétit was simpler from an ingredients standpoint, and focused more on the avocado itself. The Spicy Avocado-Cucumber Soup in the 2011 Food & Wine Annual Cookbook, on the other hand, had more ingredients, and had more flavour complexity.

Soup number one—BA’s soup—was a simple matter of pureeing four ingredients (avocado, broth, heavy cream, and lime juice) together in a blender, seasoning it, and putting it in the fridge to chill. I also made the breadcrumbs, which were toasted on the stovetop with melted butter, paprika, cayenne, and salt.
I appreciate the simplicity of this recipe. If you want a soup that showcases avocado, this is the one. I even went so far as to tweak this one to use a little more avocado, and a little less cream. I mean, the avocado is creamy enough on its own, isn’t it? Another note about this recipe: be sure to use a very mild-tasting broth. Anything with too strong of a flavour will easily overpower the avocado. You may even want to use half broth and half water.

Soup number two—F&W’s soup—was also simple to put together, though it involved more ingredients. As per the recipe’s instructions, I made this one in the food processor.
 This soup includes cucumber, avocado, Thai green curry paste, sugar, lime zest and juice, Serrano chile, water, and coconut milk. Let me tell you: I loved this recipe. I loved the coolness that the cucumber added, and the sugar, while working to balance out the spiciness, seemed to make the cucumber’s delicate flavour pop. I liked the hint of spiciness from the curry paste and the chile. The heat is definitely not overpowering, just a subtle tingling that comes with the aftertaste. I loved the sweetness and the richness that the coconut milk added as well. This recipe seemed very Thai to me, especially with the balance between the hot (curry and chile), sour (lime), sweet (sugar, coconut milk), salty (salt), and plain (cucumber, water). I’ll bet that some chopped and salted peanuts would make a great garnish to this soup.

A quick note on making this recipe: I halved the recipe, and it barely fit into my 11-cup food processor. The original doesn’t say anything about this, but I’ve added a note in the recipe below that if you are making the full amount, you will need to purée it in batches. Another note about this recipe: it is raw, vegan, and gluten-free, for anyone who is keeping track!
So which recipe is better? Well, I’d say that’s all a matter of opinion, and depends on what you’re looking for. I have my favourite, but both of these soups have their merits. There’s a lot more summer left, and plenty of time to try both these recipes, as well as many, many other variations on the cold soup.

Chilled Avocado Soup Shots with Spicy Breadcrumbs
Adapted from Bon Appétit magazine, June 2010, p. 75
Makes 8 small glasses.

1 large ripe avocado (or two, if using less cream), halved, pitted, peeled, diced
1 ½ cups (or more) MILD vegetable broth or low-salt chicken broth (or, ¾ cup broth and ¾ cup water, depending on how strong your broth is)
¼ cup heavy whipping cream (or 1/8 cup if using two avocados)
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
Kosher salt
1 4x4x1/2-inch slice soft white sandwich bread with crust
1 tbsp. butter
¾ tsp. paprika
¼ tsp. coarse kosher salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Place diced avocado in blender. Add 1 ½ cups broth, whipping cream, lime juice, and a big pinch of salt. Puree until smooth. As necessary, add broth by ¼ cupfuls to thin soup to desired consistency. Taste and add salt to season, if necessary. Cover and chill at least 2 hours. (Soup can be made up to 24 hours in advance.)

Finely grind bread in food processor. Melt butter in medium non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add breadcrumbs to skillet; stir until golden, about 1 minute. Add paprika, coarse salt, and cayenne; stir until breadcrumbs are crisp, about a minute longer. Transfer to a small bowl and cool.

Pour about 1/3 cup of soup into eight small glasses. Sprinkle each serving lightly with breadcrumbs.

Spicy Avocado-Cucumber Soup
Adapted from 2011 Food & Wine Annual Cookbook, p. 62
Serves 10

*NOTE: In most processors, the ingredients will not all fit in one batch. Half works in an 11-cup processor, so I’d suggest doing the recipe in two batches for this size of processor, and in more batches for anything smaller. If you have a larger processor, keep in mind, you’ll need space for approximately 18 cups of liquid in your processor to do this entire recipe in one batch!

Two 12-ounce cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 Hass avocados, coarsely chopped
2 tsp. Thai green curry paste
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. finely grated lime zest
1 Serrano chile, seeded and chopped
3 ½ cups water
One 13-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
3 tbsp. fresh lime juice
½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted
10 cilantro sprigs

In a food processor, puree the cucumbers until smooth. Add the avocados, curry paste, sugar, lime zest, and chile. Process until blended. Add the water, coconut milk, and lime juice and process until smooth. Transfer the soup to a large bowl and season with salt. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about one hour.

Ladle the soup into small bowls or cups. Garnish with the toasted coconut flakes, the cilantro sprigs, and serve.

One final note: A really nice touch to any chilled soup is to place the dishes you will be serving it in into the fridge fifteen minutes before you’re ready to plate. This will make the dishes as icy cold as the soup, and the soup will seem even more refreshing!

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