Use fresh peas; older ones can be starchy and even slightly bitter. (Yvonne Duivenvoorden)
Chilled soups are the perfect food to eat when the weather turns warm. A bonus is that, because they’re made ahead, the kitchen is cool in the heat of the day.
In this uncooked cup of green, cooling comfort, cucumber, mint and peas blend together as if they were made for each other. Use fresh, just-picked peas if you can find them. If the peas are older than a few days, they can be starchy and even slightly bitter. To make it seriously simple and ensure a tasty result, prepare the soup with frozen petit pois that have been defrosted.
Fresh mint is a wonderful complement to the flavor of peas and cucumber. There are many varieties of fresh mint, such as lemon, pineapple, orange, spearmint and even chocolate. A simple hearty mint is best in this recipe. Try growing it in a pot on your windowsill or in your yard. It’s best to grow mint in pots because mint has a way of taking over your garden.
The reason that I use European (hydroponic, hothouse or English) cucumbers in this recipe is that they are completely digestible and are never bitter; thus you won’t have to peel or salt them.
This is one of those soups that make a great starter for many dishes, like omelets or frittatas or grilled chicken. The soup is particularly pretty since the dark green skin accentuates the bright green pea color. Make sure to chill for at least 4 hours or overnight. If you have pretty, small glass bowls, use them here so you can show off the pretty color.
Chilled Cucumber, Pea and Mint Soup
1 European cucumber
2 cups fresh shelled peas (about 2 pounds unshelled, cooked until just tender and cooled) or 2 cups defrosted frozen petit pois (small peas)
4 scallions, light green and white parts only, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
¼ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
¼ European cucumber, cup finely diced (reserved from making the soup)
1⁄3 cup fresh-shelled peas (about 1⁄3 pound unshelled, cooked until just tender and cooled) or frozen petit pois (small peas), defrosted
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup sour cream, for garnish
To make the soup: Cut three-quarters of the cucumber into 2-inch chunks. (Dice the rest finely and set aside for the relish.)
In a large blender, combine the cucumber chunks, peas, scallions, mint and broth, and blend on high until completely puréed. Add the sour cream and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper, and blend well. Taste for seasoning. (If the soup is not totally smooth, you can pour it through a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl.) Refrigerate the soup until chilled, at least 4 hours.
To make the relish: Combine the diced cucumber, peas, mint, and lemon juice in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste and mix to blend well.
Just before serving, stir the soup, which may have separated during refrigeration. Pour the soup into small bowls and garnish with the sour cream and relish. Serve immediately.
To make ahead: This may be made just shy of stirring and garnishing the soup up to a day ahead, covered and refrigerated.
Readjust the seasonings and mix to blend well before serving. Serves 4.
Per serving: 158 calories; 6 g fat (3 g saturated fat; 34 percent calories from fat); 19 g carbohydrates; 9 g sugar; 11 mg cholesterol; 729 mg sodium; 10 g protein; 6 g fiber.
Diane Rossen Worthington is the author of 18 cookbooks and a James Beard award-winning radio show host. seriouslysimple.com