Nightmare on Eskridge Street:
Cooking on Channel 10
(e-SoupSong 40: August 1, 2003)
"Welcome to 'Recipes from the Chef's Kitchen.' This is Lindsey Gustin on Channel 10, broadcasting on local cable access from Eskridge Street in Fairfax, Virginia. Today I'd like to introduce Pat Solley, creator of www.soupsong.com and soon-to-be-published author of Life in a Bowl of Soup. Pat, welcome to the show."
"Thank you, Lindsey. It's wonderful to be here. In fact, I'm deeply honored to be here, following the toques of great Washington chefs like Galileo's Roberto Donna and Vidalia's Jeff Buben. Omigod, and the Occidental's Patrick Bazin! Really, I mean REALLY, it is SUCH a deep deep honor and pl----"
"Okay, that's very nice, Pat, but why don't you tell us what you're going to make today?"
"A pleasure, Lindsey. We're in the last gasp of the dog days of summer of course, an expression that arose in ancient times when people living in the Mediterranean looked at the night sky and connected the dots of bright stars to form pictures. One of these pictures was Canis Major--a big dog-shaped constellation at the feet of the hunter Orion--and its brightest star was Sirius, which accordingly became known as the Dog Star. This star was SO bright that people even thought it heated up the earth like a small sun. So when Sirius and the sun rose and set together during the summer season--and it was hot hot hot in the Mediterranean--people called this period "the dog days," from about July 3 to August 11. Of course the time of conjunction varies with difference in latitude, and because of the precession of the equinoxes it changes gradually over long periods in all latitudes...."
"Pat? Pat, could we get back to the menu?"
"Oops. Ha ha ha. Oh yes. Excuse me, Lindsay. Must be these dog days of heat getting to me. So it's HOT right now and a perfect time to make cold soup. I plan to make three cold soups today, each based on the cucumber, that noble "cool as a cucumber" fruit that can be as much as 20 degrees cooler than the outside air on a hot day. Cukes are, of course, relatives of Persian muskmelons and probably originated in India, spreading west in ancient times. In fact, they are one of the few foods mentioned in the Bible. Remember Numbers 11:5, when the children of Israel, under Moses' care, cried "remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks and the onions, and the garlick"? And, of course, in 3rd century Babylon, devotees of Manicheanism believed that cucumbers contained very high concentrations of Light, and that the holy, abstemious Elect of that religion had the power to release this Light from the darkness and evil of matter by eating them and belching out their light particles...."
"Oh. Yes. Well. The three soups I'll be making today are from vastly different regions. The new world: Mexican lime-cucumber soup with a kick of tequila. Europe: Spanish Gazpacho. And the Baltics: Lithuanian Saltibarsciai. Also, just in case I talk too fast during the taping, I brought along a fourth chilled soup--one from Asia: Singaporean spiced fresh orange soup."
"BREAK! Pat, let's retape that. I don't want my viewers to think you aren't professional. You shouldn't talk about being nervous and talking too fast. Okay? Okay, let's start again with the soups you'll be making today."
"Oh dear. Okay. Thank you, Lindsey."
"Are you ready, Pat?"
"Yes, I'm ready."
"Watch John; he'll give you the countdown."
"Three, two, one...."
"The three soups I'll be making today are from quite different places around the world, Lindsey. First, the new world, with Mexican lime-cucumber soup that has a kick of tequila in it. Second, Europe, with that superb "pureed salad," Spanish Gazpacho. And finally, from the Baltics: the very unusual Lithuanian Saltibarsciai."
"Pat, why don't we go straight to the kitchen and make the first one?"
"Hello, and welcome back to 'Recipes from the Chef's Kitchen.' This is Lindsey Gustin on Channel 10 in Fairfax County. I'm here in the kitchen with Pat Solley, and she is going to attempt her first soup. Pat?"
"Ha ha ha, thank you Lindsey. This Mexican soup is a honey. Very light, piquant, sweet-sour, and with a satisfyingly little kick of tequila. Brainlessly easy to make. Deeply green. Green, green, green. Very very green.
"Now, you'll see I have all the ingredients right here at the ready. They are all green--bright, lovely green--and they are almost all fruits: seedless green grapes, a lime, a cucumber, a green pepper, and a jalapeno pepper...then a couple green onions, cilantro, and tequila for flavorings. This is actually a very nice reposado tequila, Lindsey--excellent as a flavoring for the soup, and actually really quite nice to sip. Will you join me in a glass? No? Mmmmmm, very smooth.
"Now, watch how easy this is. Just pop the grapes into the blender. Grate the zest of the lime, being careful not to grate any of its bitter white pith, and scrape the zest into the blender. And, yes, Lindsey, it IS a good idea not to grate your knuckles too. Very bloody, actually. These microplane graters sure are terrific with all their little steel razors. Ah, thank you very much for the band aids, Lindsey. Ha ha ha. Okay, now squeeze each half of the lime and pour the juice into the blender. Next, the cucumber: peeling, then slicing off a few paper thin slices for the garnish, then chopping the rest and adding the pieces to the blender. Green pepper! Coring, removing seeds, chopping, and dumping in the blender. Time for the jalapeno. Take your time with this and mince f-i-n-e......f--i--n--e--r......f---i---n---e---s---t. There. Okay, now for the green onion...."
"You just scraped all the jalapenos into the garbage."
"The jalapenos--they're in the garbage. I think you meant to put them in the blender."
Oh! Ha ha ha. Thank you, Lindsey. Fortunately I brought along another jalapeno, just in case. And Lindsey?"
"Are you sure you won't join me in another shot of this fine tequila...."
[Small chance, but if you live in Fairfax County, Virginia, you may tune in to Channel 10 to witness my television debut. The show will air Monday the 11th at 8:30 am...Wednesday, August 13 at 11:30 am...Friday the 15th at 6 pm...and Saturday the 16th at 2:30 pm. Failing that, you can always visit Lindsey Gustin's website at www.chefsrecipes.org]
And now for the recipes.
MEXICAN ICED LIME-CUCUMBER SOUP...WITH A KICK (for 4 people)
Garnish: the 4 reserved paper-thin slices of cucumber to float on top of each serving
- 2 cups seedless green grapes, stemmed
- zest of 2 limes, finely grated
- juice of 2 juicy limes
- 2 big cucumbers, peeled and chopped (slice 4 thin rounds for the garnish and reserve)
- 1/2 cup green pepper, cored, seeded, chopped
- 1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped fine
- 4 green onions, chopped
- 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
- 1/4 cup tequila
Puree everything together but the tequila and the garnish, then press through a sieve. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Then, when ready to serve, stir in the tequila, pour into bowls, and float a thin slice of cucumber on top of each serving. Serve with crisp white tortilla chips on the side.
TRUE ANDALUSIAN GAZPACHO (for 4 people)
Garnish: When served "formally", gazpacho is presented with an array of garnishes consisting of tomato, onion, cucumber, green pepper, hard-boiled egg, and Spanish dry ham, all diced. Every item is put in a separate bowl so you can choose what garnish and how much you want. When serving you can drop a few leaves of spearmint on each dish.
- 1 slice crusty white bread
- water to soak the bread
- 2 pounds ripe fresh tomatoes, cored and quartered
- 1 large cucumber, peeled and chopped
- 1 green pepper, trimmed, seeded, and chopped
- 1 red pepper, trimmed, seeded, and chopped
- 1 large clove garlic
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
- 1-2 teaspoons coarse ground salt
Soak the bread in water. In a blender, puree all the vegetables, garlic last of all. Add the soaked bread, oil, vinegar and salt and blend again. Refrigerate and serve very cold. If you don't have the time to refrigerate, just add some ice cubes to the blender or add a few to each bowl when serving. If you want a very smooth texture you can peel the tomatoes and remove the seeds from them and the cucumbers. Serve with a full array of the garnishes.
LITHUANIAN SALTIBARSCIAI, or Iced Summer Soup (for 4-6 people)
Garnish: chopped fresh dill
- 3 medium beets, boiled, peeled, and cut into thick matchstick pieces
- 2 eggs, hardboiled, shelled, and sliced into matchstick pieces
- 1 medium cucumber, peeled and sliced into thick matchsticks
- 1/4 cup green onions, chopped fine
- 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
- 8 cups cold buttermilk
- salt and pepper, to taste
Prepare the beets and eggs the night before: boiling the beets for an hour, then peeling and refrigerating; boiling the eggs for 10-15 minutes, then cooling and refrigerating. When ready to make the soup, slice the beets, eggs, and cucumber and chop the green onions and dill. Whisk the buttermilk in a large bowl, then toss in the the rest of the ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper. You may add cold water or ice cubes if the soup is too rich or thick for your tastes. Serve with boiled potatoes, sprinkled with dill.
And, just in case I've typed too fast while you're reading,
SINGAPOREAN SPICED FRESH ORANGE SOUP (serves 4-6 people)
Garnish: finely sliced leeks, separated into circles
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- 1 pound carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 3/4 cup sliced leeks, white part only
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
- 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
- salt, to taste
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over low heat, then add the carrots, leeks, and ginger, cover, and sweat them for about 15 minutes, until they are soft with an almost roasted aroma. Add stock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, until vegetables are done.
Puree, solids first, then liquid. Then stir in the orange juice. Season to taste with salt--remember to oversalt cold soups a little. Refrigerate and chill. When ready to serve, pour into bowls and top each with leek circles. It's lovely to serve this with deep fried Indian poppadums (lentil-flour puffs) on the side.
Wishing you cool cool soups on these doggy dog days,
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NEXT MONTH: "Getting Down on Knickerbocker Soup"