Put summer’s bounty in a pot, add a spoon

Kate Lawson
The Detroit News

Is it just a coincidence or because we’re in the throes of the dog days of summer that we find ourselves eating out of bowls more often? No dinner plates needed here — crisp, cool bowls of salads and fresh vegetable summer soups seem to do the trick when we’re looking for refreshing sustenance with little effort.

In the winter, we want our soups to provide cozy, hearty comfort, so they come chock-full of grains and big, chunky vegetables, we let them simmer away and fill the house with enticing smells. But on days when the temperature tops 90, and we’re simmering in our shorts, the desire to cook wilts as fast as our appetites. That seems so unfair when the market expedition has you laden with bulging bags of zucchini, big baskets of beans, plenty of potatoes, tons of tomatoes ... you get the picture: soup is the answer.

Yet you can go from blender to bowl or saucepan to soup spoon in minutes by just grabbing any fresh veggie, a handful of fresh herbs and a sprinkle of spices to concoct a refreshing repast.

Cold soups such as the classic gazpacho, silken vichyssoise and cold borscht are a true summer delight, but if the idea of a chilled soup doesn’t suit you, a small stint on the stovetop can turn up an equally satisfying and delicious potage.

The addition of fresh herbs and spices such as cilantro, cumin, cinnamon and ginger really give summer soups a zing and rarely do you need to simmer them for long to bring out all the goodness.

Offer slices of crusty toasted bread, a platter of cheeses and olives and perhaps some smoked fish or meats and you’ve got a full meal. Bowls of condiments, chopped red onion, avocado, minced herbs, chopped nuts and chiles are also welcome.

So when summer has you sweltering, turn the tables on Mother Nature and tame the heat. Open the fridge and turn on the blender or grab a saucepan. The trick is to use your imagination, grab the freshest vegetables you can find, put your feet up and sip your supper in style.



Cauliflower Apple Soup with Cashews

The soup can be made ahead refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Recipe adapted from Food & Wine

1 head of cauliflower (2 1/4 pounds), bottom trimmed and leaves removed

1 medium onion, chopped

1 small apple — peeled, cored and chopped

1/2 cup raw cashews

1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon cayenne


1 cup plain unsweetened almond milk

Chopped roasted cashews, for garnish

Chop the cauliflower into large pieces, including the stem. In a large pot, combine all of the ingredients except the salt, almond milk and garnish. Add enough water to cover the vegetables, season with salt and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat until the cauliflower is very tender, about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a clean pot and stir in the almond milk. Rewarm over moderate heat, adding more water or almond milk for a thinner consistency, if desired. Season the soup with salt, garnish with chopped cashews and serve. Serves 6.

Per serving: 134 calories; 6 g fat (1 g saturated fat; 40 percent calories from fat); 18 g carbohydrates; 7 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 272 mg sodium; 6 g protein; 5 g fiber.

Easy Creamy Zucchini Soup

This also freezes very well.

Recipe adapted from Food Network

2 pounds zucchini, about 4-5, chopped, but leave peel on for color

3/4 cup onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon butter, ghee or olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

3 cups chicken stock

1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves

Cook the onion and garlic in butter/ghee for about 3-5 minutes in a soup pot over medium low heat. Add the zucchini and salt, turn the heat to medium and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in basil. Puree with an immersion blender or pour into a blender. To serve, sprinkle with chopped green onions and cilantro. Serves 4.

Per serving: 142 calories; 6 g fat (3 g saturated fat; 38 percent calories from fat); 16 g carbohydrates; 10 g sugar; 13 mg cholesterol; 880 mg sodium; 8 g protein; 3 g fiber.

Summer Corn Chowder

Recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

8 ears fresh sweet yellow corn, husked and silks removed and kernels cut from cob

3 tablespoons butter

5 slices bacon, cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces

1 medium yellow onion chopped (1 1/2 cups)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 clove garlic, minced

5 cups water

1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 bay leaf

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup half and half

1 tablespoons honey

2-3 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

Shredded cheddar cheese, for serving (optional)

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and bacon and cook, stirring frequently, until onion has softened and just starting to brown around edges, about 8-10 minutes. Add in the flour and garlic and cook 1 1/2 minutes. While whisking, slowly pour in 5 cups water. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, then stir in corn kernels and potatoes. Add in thyme and bay leaf and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a light boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Transfer 2 1/2 cups of the chowder to a blender and blend until smooth. Stir the mixture back into the pot then stir in half and half and honey. Sprinkle each serving with chives and optional cheddar. Serves 6.

Per serving: 356 calories; 13 g fat (9 g saturated fat; 33 percent calories from fat); 35 g carbohydrates; 15 g sugar; 64 mg cholesterol; 371 mg sodium; 11 g protein; 3 g fiber.

Chilled Avocado Soup with Crab

Recipe from myrecipes.com

3 avocados, cut into chunks

3 cups chicken or vegetable broth

3 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice

1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Combine ingredients in a blender, and process until smooth. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours or until completely chilled. Pour soup into serving bowls. Top each serving with Crab-and-Mango Garnish. Serves 6.

Crab-and-Mango Garnish

1/2 pound lump crab

1/4 cup chopped sweet onion

1/2cup diced mango

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 tablespoon light olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Combine ingredients in bowl; cover and chill. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Per serving: 197 calories; 14 g fat (2 g saturated fat; 64 percent calories from fat); 10 g carbohydrates; 3 g sugar; 38 mg cholesterol; 1,305 mg sodium; 11 g protein; 5 g fiber.

Chilled Carrot Soup

Recipe from Food Network

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

1/4 cup freshly sliced ginger

1 onion, sliced

1 jalapeno, sliced

2 cups orange juice

2 cups coconut milk

4 cups chicken stock

1 pound peeled and sliced carrots

1 cup creme fraiche, for garnish

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

In an 8-quart saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the coriander and cumin seeds and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the ginger, onion, and jalapeno and sweat for 4 minutes. Add all liquid ingredients and bring to simmer. Add the carrots and simmer for 2 hours.

Remove from heat and puree using an immersion blender or regular blender. Strain twice through a fine-mesh sieve, pushing through all the solids with a rubber spatula. Chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Garnish with creme fraiche and cilantro and serve. Serves 10.

Per serving: 210 calories; 13 g fat (9 g saturated fat; 56 percent calories from fat); 17 g carbohydrates; 10 g sugar; 13 mg cholesterol; 196 mg sodium; 5 g protein; 2 g fiber.

Chilled Mango and Cucumber Soup

Recipe from Gourmet

2 mangoes, peeled and pitted

2 seedless cucumbers (or seed and peel regular Kirby cucumbers)

1/4 cup water, plus 2 cups

3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Finely chop 1 mango and 1 cucumber and set aside. Coarsely chop remaining mango and cucumber and puree with 1/4 cup water in a blender until almost smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in finely chopped mango and cucumber, onion, lime juice, and 2 cups cold water. Place bowl in a larger bowl of ice and cold water and stir until cool. Just before serving, stir in cilantro and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt. Makes 7 cups or 7 servings.

Per serving: 48 calories; 0.4 g fat (0 g saturated fat; 8 percent calories from fat); 12 g carbohydrates; 9 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 501 mg sodium; 1 g protein; 2 g fiber.

Simple Summer Soup

Recipe adapted from Allrecipes.com. For a lighter soup, use almond or coconut milk in place of half-and-half. If fresh shelled green peas aren’t available, use frozen tiny green peas.

2 cups water

5 small potatoes, scrubbed and halved

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 tablespoons butter

6 cups green onions, cut into 3-inch lengths

12 small carrots cut into 2-inch lengths

1 1/2 pounds fresh green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths

2 cups fresh shelled green peas

2 cups half-and-half or whole milk

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Heat water to boiling in a medium pot; add potatoes. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, approximately 15 to 20 minutes.

Add salt, pepper, butter, onions, carrots and green beans; simmer until tender, then add peas.

In a small bowl, stir together half-and-half and flour until smooth; stir into the simmering vegetables. Cook, stirring constantly until the soup is slightly thickened. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Per serving: 526 calories; 21 g fat (12 g saturated fat; 36 percent calories from fat); 74 g carbohydrates; 26 g sugar; 60 mg cholesterol; 827 mg sodium; 17 g protein; 18 g fiber.

Summer Tomato and Bell Pepper Soup

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit. If you are so inclined, you can roast fresh red peppers instead of using jarred. Can be made 6 hours ahead. Keep chilled.

2 1/4 cups tomato juice

1 1/3 cups finely chopped tomatoes (about 11 ounces)

1/2 cup (generous) finely chopped roasted red bell peppers from jar

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon prepared white horseradish

1 garlic clove, pressed

Generous dash of hot pepper sauce

Fine sea salt

4 1/3-inch-thick rounds soft fresh goat cheese

6 grape tomatoes, cut in half

2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil

Additional extra-virgin olive oil (for drizzling)

Combine first 8 ingredients in large bowl; whisk to blend. Season soup to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled and flavors blend, at least 2 hours.

Ladle soup into 4 bowls. Top each with 1 goat cheese round and 3 grape tomato halves. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and basil. Drizzle with oil and serve. Serves 4.

Per serving: 870 calories; 15 g fat (5 g saturated fat; 16 percent calories from fat); 12 g carbohydrates; 8 g sugar; 13 mg cholesterol; 907 mg sodium; 8 g protein; 2 g fiber.