Five Great Cooling Soups for Summer

Driving through the 104°F (40°C) Central Valley today was a stinging reminder that summer is in full swing. Here in Orange County, the worst of the heat is yet to come, but when it does hit in August and September, appetites will be blunted and we naranjeros will be looking for ways to beat the heat. Here are five cold soups that go perfectly with the cruel Santa Ana winds:

1. Gazpacho

No list of cold soups could possibly start without this salad in liquid form, which is never cooked: it has tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions, garlic, vinegar or lemon juice and herbs, blended together into a thick soup which is chilled thoroughly. It's garnished with minced vegetables, croutons and olive oil. If you're looking to cool your body's core temperature, this is the way to do it.

2. Mul naengmyon

The least-known of the five soups here to Americans, this Korean soup is literally ice-cold. Boiled, chewy buckwheat noodles (somewhat like soba) are placed into a stainless steel bowl, garnished with a few slices of cooked beef brisket, a hard-boiled egg, and thin slices of cucumber, radish, and Korean pear, and then submerged  in a garlicky beef broth that is kept cold with ice chips. If the outside of the bowl isn't sweating, it isn't cold enough; garnish with searing-hot Korean mustard and tangy vinegar and beat the heat the Korean way.

3. Melon soup

Nearly every European culture that has melons has a melon soup recipe that involves puréeing melons with seasonings; it doesn't matter whether it's watermelons (drop crumbled feta cheese on the soup), cantaloupes (crispy fried bits of prosciutto) or honeydew (crumbled flash-fried mint leaves), the soups are more refreshing than normal due to their sweetness. This is what you should do with the half a melon left in the fridge.

4. Vichyssoise

The original cold soup (and, if you're wondering, it's pronounced "vee-shee-SWAHZ", more or less), this classic French soup is potatoes and leeks cooked in stock, then puréed into a thick soup and thinned with some fresh cream. This is the cold soup that eats like a meal; add a salad (salade niçoise, anyone?) and a small dessert and you've got a French summer meal fit for Julia Child.

5. Pappa al pomodoro

It is NOT Italian gazpacho. It's not, it's not, it's not! Okay, it sort of is. Pappa al pomodoro, which means "mush with tomatoes", is served room temperature rather than cold. It's simpler and chunkier than gazpacho and starts off life as a cooked soup: you make a simple tomato sauce with the freshest, best, ripest tomatoes you can find, and then you cook bread in it until it falls apart, adding water as necessary. Once it's done, let it cool and then garnish with fresh herbs and the best extra-virgin olive oil you can afford. Serve with a glass of wine, and call it a light lunch on a hot day.


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