Recently I posted a very positive review for Michele Scicolone’s The Italian Vegetable Cookbook. And I’m on a tear for making agua frescas.
Here a unique “blend” thanks to Michele. It’s a soup but it’s almost an agua fresca. Leave out the vinegar [and maybe salt and pepper] and you could happily drink away Michele’s combo of cucumber and water.
Cucumbers are perhaps the most versatile of our foods. We eat and drink them, even slice them and put them on our eyes. They are subtle, delicate, distinctive, versatile.
In making this soup/cream, you want to retain the power of the delicacy. This cream/soup should just ever so slightly drift across your palate letting the cucumber aroma and coolness embrace you like an autumn fog. So, go easy on the salt and pepper and vinegar. You want those ingredients to intensify the cucumber flavor, not overwhelm it.
You can serve this dish as the starter for any meal. For a long dinner with several courses, this can be a surprise intermediary, a break between two heavier dishes to lighten up the mouth and refresh your guests.
On a hot summer night, combining this dish with a salad will create an accomplished meal.
Cold Cucumber Cream with Tomato Salsa
Yield: serves 4
- 1 ¼ pounds cucumbers [3-4 large or 8-10 Kirbys]
- 2 scallions chopped
- ¾ cup water
- 1 teaspoons white vinegar [more or less to your taste]
- Salta and freshly ground pepper
- 1 medium tomato
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Peel the cucumbers and cut lengthwise in half. With a small spoon, scoop out the seed and discard them.
Finely chop enough of the cucumbers to make ½ cup. Cover and refrigerate for the salsa.
Cut the remaining cumbers into 1-inch chunks. In a blender or food processor, combine the cucumber chunks, 1 of the scallions and the water. Puree until smooth. Season to taste with the vinegar, salt, and pepper. Pour the soup into a covered container and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.
Just before serving, cut the tomato in half through the step end. Remove the core and squeeze the halves to extract some the seeds and juice; discard them. Cut the tomato in ½-inch dice and place in a small bowl. Finely chop the remaining scallion and add it to the bowl, along with the chopped cucumber and the basil. Toss with the oil and salt and pepper to taste.
Taste the soup for seasoning. Spoon it into chilled bowls, top each bowl with some of the salsa and serve.
Source: The Italian Vegetable Cookbook by Michele Scicolone
Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60MM Macro Lens, F/5.6, 1/50th second, ISO-3200
I am, in my soul, a gazpacho addict. I love the concept and all the flavors that gazpacho, made with fresh ingredients, can deliver to my table.
Funny thing, after thinking conventional tomato soup was ghastly, any tomato soup on a menu now captures my attention. Even roasted tomato soup. From canned tomatoes. I must admit that for this recipe, roasting the tomatoes in brown sugar may have something to do with my new found preferences. Just maybe.
This lovely soup has this key advantage: it is available year round. No need to wait for Jersey tomato giants in August. This generously flavored soup has a peasant food heritage: diced bread and grated cheese merged with half-and-half. This soup can be your introduction to a full meal, but it has the body to, on its own, be the centerpiece of your evening. Just pair with a salad. And, of course, finish with a clever dessert. [Need a clever idea? Try our earlier post on Cutie Pies!]
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 2 (28 ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons dark or light brown sugar
- Half a medium loaf of focaccia bread, cut into a 1/2″ dice (about 3 cups bread cubes)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup finely grated sharp cheddar cheese (use a Microplane grater)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (see note above)
- 4 large shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 large or 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and chopped (about 2 teaspoons)
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves (optional)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- About 3 cups water
- 1/2 cup half-and-half
Adjust oven racks to middle positions and preheat oven to 375°F.
Prepare the tomatoes: spray a large rimmed sheet tray with an even coating of cooking spray. Add drained tomatoes and space evenly. Season tomatoes to taste with salt and pepper, then divide brown sugar over tops of tomatoes. Roast tomatoes in oven until sugar is browned and tomatoes have shrunken slightly, about 45 minutes. Remove tomatoes from oven.