Cold soup for a sultry summer

I like to cook, but once the weather gets steamy, I tend to get lazy when it comes to fixing dinner. That's why one evening recently I stopped by a gourmet grocery store to pick up a pint of what's labeled fresh gazpacho. It's not authentic, but I enjoy it anyway – especially since I didn't have to mince all the fresh veggies it contains.

As my husband and I started our meal with bowls of the flavorful cold tomato concoction, he looked up and said, "You know what this reminds me of?"

Since we've been married for years, I knew exactly what he meant, although it would have been a stretch for anyone else. Actually, I'd been thinking the same thing: cold cherry soup. Specifically, our first taste of cold cherry soup when we were newly married and living in Germany.

We had saved our pfennigs for a splurge at a sophisticated restaurant on top of a large hill overlooking the small resort city where we lived. The first course was chilled cherry soup. One spoonful, and we both fell in love with it. We have no recollection of anything else we ate at that meal, but the memory of the soup still lingers.

As we rambled down memory lane, I recalled experimenting with cold fruit soups one summer when we were living in a part of the southern US where fresh fruit was abundantly available.

Blueberry soup – as well as blackberry, raspberry, and cantaloupe soup – appeared almost nightly at the dinner table as I tried various recipes.

I seemed to remember that I had saved the recipes we liked most. But we've moved twice since then, so I had no idea where they might be.

I wasn't concerned, though, since just about any recipe can be tracked down on the Internet these days.

Before long I started printing out recipes using the fruits that were best at the moment – blueberries, strawberries, and peaches. I also saved a couple for blackberry and melon soups.

Then I headed off to the supermarket and stocked up on the fruits of summer. Back home, I pulled out the measuring cups and spoons, the saucepans, and the blender. Soon the fragrance of fresh berries filled the kitchen and poured out into the rest of the house.

One night, we started supper with beautiful burgundy- colored blueberry soup. The next evening, the chilled soup du jour was pineapple-strawberry.

Night after night, we started our summer suppers with cold fruit soups. It was fun, and a nice way to dress up an otherwise simple meal. Most were appealing, but I found that some took too much effort (it's summertime, after all). Occasionally, we didn't especially like the taste. A few were really more like smoothies, which are fine at lunch, but not what I wanted.

Finally, we'd decided on our favorites and I was ready to type them into the computer so that next summer I wouldn't have to search all over again. I also wondered whether I ought to branch out into trying soups made from combinations of several fruits.

My husband had another idea, though. "We haven't had any of that good gazpacho in a while," he said. "Would you like me to pick some up at the store?"

I got the message. The fruit soups were wonderful – but in moderation. Still, the next time the temperature shot up over 90 degrees F. for several days, he quickly requested the blueberry soup made with orange juice. It immediately makes the world seem a cooler place.

Chilled Strawberry Soup

3 cups sliced strawberries
1 cup sour cream
1 cup half-and-half
4 to 6 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 whole strawberries, for garnish (optional)

Place strawberries, sour cream, half-and-half, 4 tablespoons of the sugar, and vanilla in a blender. Blend until smooth, and then taste. If necessary, add more sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and blend to get the sweetness desired.

Chill, covered, in the refrigerator. Serve in bowls and garnish each with a fresh whole strawberry. Makes about 4 cups.

Cold Blueberry Soup

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup orange juice
4 cups fresh blueberries, washed and picked over
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1-1/2 to 2 cups half-and-half

Place sugar and cinnamon in a large saucepan and stir in orange juice. Add blueberries (be sure you've removed any stems) and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Boil 1 minute. Remove pan from heat and let contents cool to room temperature.

Add lemon juice to blueberry mixture in the saucepan, stirring until combined. Then pour the mix into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

Pour into a bowl, cover, and chill in the refrigerator.

Before serving, mix in half-and- half. Makes about 6 cups.

– Adapted from Southern Living magazine

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