By Ali Lopez
August is here, and with it the last hot days of summer! I don’t know about you, but when it is this hot, I don’t really feel like cooking much, or even eating a heavy meal. But I am still hungry — so what to do? Soup, I say!
What? Soup in the summer? Yes, but not a steamy, hot bowl of soup. Save that for the fall and winter. August is the peak time when vegetables and fruits are at their best, and they really come alive and shine in a simple, delicious cold soup. Just like with hot soups, cold soups can be chunky or creamy, and they are so adaptable, so it is easy to work with what is in season or what you have in your fridge. You can also make them ahead of time, so they are ready to eat when you don’t feel like cooking. (In fact, they get better with a few hours in the fridge.)
Creamy chilled vegetable soups can be savory or sweet. I like to start by sautéing some onion or leeks and then adding a vegetable that be pureed like potatoes, carrots, zucchini, summer squash, beets, peas … the choices are really endless, and the result is a creamy, naturally thickened soup. You can spice it sweet or savory and add yogurt or milk for extra creaminess. You can also make an uncooked creamy vegetable soup with things like cucumbers, tomatoes, greens. And don’t forget about fruit soups like creamy avocado, lemony blueberry yogurt or savory strawberry basil.
If you are more into chunky soups instead of creamy, then you have all sorts of choices as well. Gazpacho is the classic and can be smooth or chunky, and there are a ton of different variations. My favorite is this Watermelon Gazpacho. (Yes I know, I have quite the watermelon obsession, but it will over in about a month!)
A great way to liven up your chilled soup is with garnishes! Fresh herbs, a drizzle of yogurt or really good olive oil, chopped veggies, cooked shrimp or chicken, crumbled cheese, croutons, nuts and seeds can really elevate your soup to another level and make it feel more like a meal instead of a smoothie.
Here are a few of my favorites. Give ‘em a try on the next hot night!
Creamy Chilled Zucchini Soup
Extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds zucchini, rough chop
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup fresh parsley
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 cups water
sea salt and pepper, to taste
greek yogurt, to garnish
Heat a sauce pan over medium heat and add olive oil. Add zucchini to pan. Cook until zucchini is soft, about 10 minutes. Let cool. *
In a small fry pan, toast sunflower seeds for about 5 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from heat.
Once zucchinis have cooled, add basil, parsley, lemon juice, and water to the pan. Puree using an immersion blender until smooth. (Or you can use a blender and do it in batches or a food processor. If soup seems too thick, add more water. Add salt to taste. Garnish with greek yogurt and sunflower seeds.
* You can also make this soup with leftover grilled zucchini. I like to grill a few extra just for that reason. Just chop up the grilled zucchini, add the other ingredients and blend it up!
Chilled Cucumber Soup With Farm Fresh Herbs
2 large cucumbers, scoop seeds out and chop
1 cup plain greek yogurt
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup fresh dill
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1/8 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
In a blender combine cucumber, yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, dill, parsley and olive oil. Blend until smooth. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper. Chill soup until ready to serve.
Watermelon Gazpacho (Picture at top of this article)
Yield: 4 servings
1 large tomato
3 cups cubed, seedless watermelon
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup red onion, diced (save half for garnish)
1 cucumber, seeded and diced (save half for garnish)
a few fresh basil leaves, (save some for garnish)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 avocado, diced
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
In a blender, puree the tomatoes and watermelon. Add red wine vinegar and olive oil and pulse. Add the garlic, 1/2 the onion, 1/2 the cucumber and a few basil leaves. Pulse again to desired smoothness. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Chill for at least an hour before serving to bring out more flavor. To serve, pour into bowls and garnish with sliced basil, avocado, feta, and reserved onion and cucumber.
Have a fueling question for Ali? Post it below in the comments section or email MRG with your healthy-eating questions at heather [at] michiganrunnergirl [dot] com
Ali will answer your questions in upcoming columns here on MRG. You can read her post about the Power of Smoothies, here » She’s also written about superfoods and shares a great recipe for kale salad here »
Ali Lopez is a northern Michigan runner, chef and health coach. You can learn more about her at her web site Healthy Chef Ali. She’s also on Facebook here »
You can listen to a conversation about running and eating between Ali and Heather on a recent MRG podcast episode here »