It’s interesting how little traction cold soups get here in California. Maybe it’s because we prefer to drink our nutrition in the form of smoothies. Think of a cold soup as a more of a savory smoothie that cools you down while it fills you up. Cold soups can be smooth (there’s that word again) or filled with ingredients to munch on that add texture and reinforce the coolness of the soup.
My two favorite cold soups are Gazpacho (of course) and Beet Borscht. It’s interesting that both these soups have a sweet-sour balance that amps up flavor. Bread is soaked in sherry vinegar for Gazpacho while tomatoes provide both acid and sweetness. Borscht is seasoned with a balance of lemon juice or vinegar and sugar. I’m sure it’s one of the reasons they these particular cold soups are so satisfying
For Gazpacho, I prefer the traditional Spanish version made with vinegar-soaked bread and a good amount of olive oil along with the cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes all blended to a thick smoothness. The olive oil gives the soup additional body and changes the color from red to a gentle orange. Gazpacho without enough oil just tastes like salsa to me. For years we celebrated summer tomatoes at Angeli with endless bowls of the glistening cooling elixir. I share that recipe here. I also have a chunky Gazpacho recipe that my mother loved.
I’ve been eating Chilled Beet Borscht since childhood. Mom always had a jar of the stuff in the fridge that she would tart up with a changing variety of ingredients, but my favorite always had cucumbers, potatoes and chopped hard-cooked egg in addition to the shredded beets. Of course the bowl was topped with a healthy dollop of sour cream. My talented colleague Anya Von Bremzen (the author of one of the greatest food memoirs ever) has a recipe here very similar to my mom’s. If you’re too lazy to actually cook the beets in this heat, I won’t throw shade if you start with a jar of store bought Beet Borscht like my mom always did.
Once again I reached out to you lovely folks on Instagram to ask what restaurant cold soups you enjoy. The consensus was an epic Gazpacho from Yess Aquatic with the addition of oysters, as well as Le Pain Quotidien and Sycamore Kitchen. Unfortunately no one chimed in for cold beet for borscht out in the world of LA dining. Do you have a favorite we should know about?
This recipe is just a guide. You can add more cucumbers and less tomato, leave out the onion and garlic if tomatoes are fantastic and use any color of bell pepper. But you MUST use good olive oil in a sufficient quantity or you will end up with a poor example of Gazpacho that resembles salsa.
- 6 mixed heirloom tomatoes, stem end removed, seeded if you want, then cut into 1/4s
- 1 to 2 cups extra virgin olive oil depending on how brave you are
- 1 green, red or yellow bell pepper, cleaned and cut coarsely
- 1 peeled cucumber, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 small red onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 to 2 peeled garlic cloves or to taste
- 1 thick slice of good dense “artisan” bread that you’ve got soaking in sherry vinegar or champagne vinegar.
- Salt to taste
-Place tomatoes and one cup of the oil in a blender and blend. Add the green pepper, cucumber, onion and garlic and blend again. Lift bread out of the vinegar and squeeze dry. Add to the blender and puree adding salt to taste and additional oil to taste. The additional oil will give the soup more body and flavor.
-Chill for several hours. Serve cold in individual bowls. I like garnishing the soup with avocado and homemade croutons.