by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
This time of year, the garden produce is really rolling in. The days are getting shorter, the nights cooler, but our days are still quite hot. Cold vegetable soups make a quick lunch - easy to put together, and really hit the spot.
Usually, by this time of year, I've canned a batch of tomato sauce and another of whole tomatoes. But this year, the first of the tomatoes are just now starting to turn red. No matter - if I have to, I'll pick the green ones when the first freeze threatens and ripen them inside. But right now, I can finally start lunching on fresh red gazpacho - a liquid salad-soup always served cold. I have a couple of half-gallon canning jars. They're too big to use for canning, but they're perfect for chilling a batch of cold soup - just shake, pour into a bowl, and serve.
Red Gazpacho (makes approx ½ gallon)
3 pounds ripe tomatoes - peeled and seeded
1 green bell pepper - seeded and ribs removed
1 red onion
1 large cucumber - peeled and seeded
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 large garlic cloves
1 cup tomato juice (fresh, or I use V8 juice)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 slice stale bread - crusts removed, soaked in water and squeezed dry
salt & pepper to taste
Working in batches, liquefy everything in a blender. Combine and refrigerate at least one hour. Stir or shake well before serving, in a soup bowl. Optional: garnish with croutons or your choice of diced pepper, cucumber, onion, or cherry tomato (or just add them all!).
I had a cabbage split a couple of weeks ago (I immediately root-pruned the rest). Split cabbages don't keep very well, and it's still too warm to be making sauerkraut, so I've made up a couple of batches of my adaptation of borscht. It involves cooking beforehand (usually the night before), and is then chilled before serving. You can used canned beets, or peel raw beets (if you don't mind red-stained hands), but I prefer using roasted fresh beets (scrub, wrap in foil packet or place in covered casserole dish, 400º, 1 hour or until beets can be easily pierced with a knife, cool and slip off the skins).
Chilled Beet Borscht (makes approx ½ gallon)
2 tablespoons oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 quart water or stock (I like fat-free chicken stock for my chilled version, classic borscht recipes call for beef stock)
6 - 8 medium beets, skins removed, chopped (or 16 oz canned beets, do not drain)
½ head cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup buttermilk (or more, to taste)
Sauté onion in oil until soft. Add stock or water, beets, cabbage, and seasonings. Simmer, covered, until beets and cabbage are tender. Puree in a blender until smooth. Chill at least 4 hours. Add buttermilk - either as a decorative swirl to each bowl, or I just pour it into the jar and shake - and serve. Chopped hard-boiled eggs make a nice garnish; buttered rye or pumpernickel bread a nice accompaniment.