Absolute Shocker: Cold Soups Can Actually Be Good
A not insignificant turning point in my culinary journey
When I was little, as soon as it got warm out, without fail, my mom and dad would make a big deal out of making and eating blueberry soup. “Time for blueberry soup!” I remember their utter excitement. I thought the soup was gross. Sweet and cold, with some spice or other that I didn’t think jived with it, I think it was actually cinnamon — just everything I thought a soup should not be.
Between that blueberry nightmare and a cucumber soup that my parents also liked, which relied too heavily on yogurt, my view on cold soups was tarnished. I steered clear. That is, I did until I was in my late teens and we started going to restaurants owned by Ignacio Blanco. Back then, he owned Maison Galicia and Pika Tapas, both in Connecticut, and maybe one other; now, he owns Ibiza Kitchen, in Chappaqua, NY.
Ignacio is just about the nicest person you’ve ever met, and was responsible for the best gazpacho I’ve ever had. It’s not the red and chunky kind, which I loathe and can go sit in a corner with the blueberry. It’s the melon-colored gazpacho that tastes like it’s got a ton of cream in it, but it doesn’t. Ignacio’s does, however, have aioli, which makes it so silky — and sherry vinegar, which gives it a satisfying tang, and he uses really good Spanish olive oil, which you can actually taste. And it’s ruined me of ever ordering gazpacho in a restaurant ever again, because I know it won’t be anywhere near as good as Ignacio’s.
BUT: Last weekend, Holden and Nick and I went to our friends’ Ramya and Samir’s place, and they made us a beautiful brunch — comprised mostly of farmer’s market finds — and Ramya made Samin Nosrat’s gazpacho, and it looked like Ignacio’s. I eyed it for a while, refusing to get my hopes up. But when I tried it, it was so similar, and I was thrilled, and ate two big bowls. (There was pasta after that, so I could have used a lie down.)
And then, of course, I realized that, all along, Mark’s recipe is similar to Samin Nosrat’s, which is similar to Ignacio’s. Full circle! (No aioli in Mark’s or Samin’s, though.)
The Ramya-Samin gazpacho made me feel slightly less wary of cold soups in general, so I decided to make Mark’s Coconut-Avocado Soup, which is essentially a perfect lunch — make it dinner with a sandwich or quiche or whatever else you want — and now I’m convinced that cold soups can be good. In light of that, I’m sharing with you today:
Ignacio’s (!!!) Gazpacho
Watermelon and Mint Soup
I understand that the second two are sweet soups. Turns out I don’t dislike them all (maybe just the ones that insist on containing cinnamon). And, by the way, I couldn’t find blueberry soup in any of my dad’s books. Maybe I finally cured him of that particular affliction.
Ignacio Blanco’s Gazpacho
1 ounce old bread
4 ripe tomatoes, peeled
1 red bell pepper
1 ounce extra virgin olive oil
1/2 ounce sherry vinegar
1 ounce aioli
4 ounces ice
1. In a blender, combine all the ingredients except the olive oil and salt.
2. Once combined, feed in the olive oil little by little. Taste for salt and serve.
— Recipe courtesy Ignacio Blanco
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 10 minutes, plus time to chill
This lovely, celadon-colored soup is about as simple as it gets. The subtle, rich flavors of avocado and coconut milk benefit from a hit of acidity, so I add orange or lime juice at the end, but that’s about it. You can, however, dress it up for company: A couple of brightly colored cherry tomatoes tossed with oil, salt, and pepper and nestled in the middle of the soup are handsome additions, as are a few cilantro sprigs. — Mark
3 or 4 ripe avocados, pitted and peeled
3 cups coconut milk
Salt and cayenne
2 tablespoons fresh orange or lime juice, plus more to taste
Toasted coconut for garnish, optional
Minced fresh red or green chile for garnish, optional
1. Put the avocados in a blender with half the coconut milk, a large pinch of salt, and a small pinch of cayenne, and purée until smooth. Transfer to a storage container and stir in the remaining coconut milk and the citrus juice. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the soup so it doesn’t discolor, and cover the container.
2. Chill the soup for at least 2 hours, or up to 6 hours if you have time. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary, adding more citrus juice if you’d like. Garnish with toasted coconut and minced chile if you’d like, and serve.