Saturday, July 7, 2012

Cucumber Mint Soup with Lemon

What is it about hot humid summer heat? Forget the sugary soft drinks and beer, give me something like sun tea and cold soup to break the sweat on my brow. Are my southern roots showing?

Cold Cucumber Soup with Mint and Lemon

Inspired by a recent trip to Decatur, Georgia (by way of Atlanta) I am paying homage to a delectable soup tasted at Cakes and Ale.

What fun it is, to try and let your taste-bud detective reveal the herbs, subtleties, and nuance of taste that make up a finely crafted recipe. I know you have done this, to try to recreate something you've had in a restaurant or a friend's house. Going blind, without a recipe. Just diving right in and start cooking with your vision and taste as a guide. How successful have you been? Do you search out like recipes on the 'net to guide you? Do you invent on a whim? Well, I do. And, for those following, this recipe is not certified, culinarily tested by banks of trained recipe writers or staff. It is my creation, eaten by my family and heck, we just enjoyed it.

The debate about the value of food blog posts such as mine, without verification, validation and test kitchen results versus the cookbooks and professional sites is currently a hot topic. Don't each have value as a creative outlet?

Let not the buyer beware? I have had my own failures based on recipes from published cookbooks and successes from delightful posts on the Internet and vise versa. Aren't we all on this journey together? Although at different places and experiences on the timeline, growth as a cook means that you can learn to read a recipe and discern whether it is viable or not and whether you have enough experience to carry it out. Are  the directions clear and followable enough for you to be successful?  Does the cake have leavening, does it call for salt? Are the flavors, herbs and spices complimentary? I check each of these things and compare before I dive in, don't you? We each "read" a recipe from a different lens based on our own experience.

I am so sorry that "home economics" is not mandatory in schools to prepare kids with cooking basics in a world of take-away family dining. However, those who have the inclination and the cooking bug are lucky enough to learn from TV (PBS rocks,) study videos, search and find fine examples. And, what is even better, the world has developed crowd sourcing for the testing process. Reading reviews, comments and compare similar recipes. If we do the research our confidence grows in our choices.

It is about how you learn, isn't it. Do you trust the author? Do they have like sensibilities to yours? We have a choice before going head-long into a dish that we hope will be spectacular.  Heaven forbid you do not practice that "oh-so-important-spectacular-end-all-be-all" dish before the event of a lifetime. Do you think success comes without practice or as a one-off? This journey, is not about perfection based on a single corporate tested recipe, vetted by professionals, but our own practice and adventures that makes each of us better cooks and culinary citizens. Failures teach as much as our successes.

I honor the trained culinary professional. But, I also honor the inventive home cook with heritage and craft as their guide. Like neighbors across the fence, sharing recipes is what we do.

In the kitchen, I'm yours.

Cold Cucumber Mint Soup with Lemon (and a little pepper)

Cold Cucumber Mint Soup with Lemon
Serves: 6-8 as a starter
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Chill Time:  Minimum 1 hour before serving

1 English Cucumber, seeded, skin on
2 Cucumbers, peeled and seeded
½ - 1 whole Anaheim Chile Pepper (adjust to taste)
3 each Green Onions (scallions) white and light green parts
4 tablespoons fresh Spearmint  (8 large leaves)
1 cup fresh Spinach leaves
2 tablespoons fresh Cilantro
½ to ¾ cup water
1 Garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon Lemon juice
1 teaspoon Lemon zest
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
2 cups plain Greek Yogurt
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
Pinch White Pepper
2 tablespoons fresh chopped Chives or
2 tablespoons micro Lemon Basil Leaves

Peel and seed regular cucumbers, seed chile and English cucumber cut into chunks.
Rough chop spinach leaves, green onions and herbs.

Add cucumbers, chile, onions, mint and spinach leaves in a blender or bowl of food processor,  pour over ½ cup water and puree very well to produce a smoothish green liquid. Add minced garlic, lemon juice, zest and olive oil. Pulse to blend. Add plain yogurt, sea salt and white pepper. Puree for 2 minutes to thoroughly blend and finely mince all ingredients. Check consistency and add ¼ cup more water to thin if desired.

Place fine mesh sieve over 6 cup bowl, pour cucumber mixture in batches working soup through the sieve with the back of a wooden spoon. This will produce a creamier soup. Chilled soup for at least an hour before serving. Divide into small bowls, sprinkle finely chopped chives on top or lemon basil micro greens. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil and serve cold.

Cook’s Tips
Inspired by a cucumber yogurt soup at Cakes and Ale, Decatur, Georgia.

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  1. Hey, I got enticed by all your Superb recipes and here you get another feather in your hat ! I cant wait to try my hands on it. It is looking so good with all the lovely pictures and write up as well. I have been here after a while but enjoyed scrolling through your rest of the wonderful recipes. Have a wonderful week ahead. Enjoy. Thanks for sharing recipes. Best Regards, Sonia !!!

    1. Hello Sonia! I am so glad you have made a return visit. Your sweet and kind comments are appreciated. I hope if you do give one of my recipes a try you'll let me know how you fared.

      Many thanks, Robin

  2. You're so right Robin. I think there is a place for everone and everything when it comes to food. I do look for recipes sometimes for inspiration and then tend to adjust it to my liking. I also 'invent' recipes based on what I have in the fridge and/or cupboard and well, sometimes they are successful and sometimes not so much... ;) I do love to read other recipes and see what other people come up with and by now I can usually see if a recipe would work or not. It took me a while for that to be possible but it certainly helps to try out a lot! Love your cucumber mint soup too! Sounds delicious!

    1. I'm with you Simone! I guess it comes down to experience, educating your palate and tolerance for risk and creativity. You have so many beautiful (to look at and to taste) recipes on I get inspired every visit.

  3. A fabulous soup! So tasty, refined and refreshing. The kind of dish I like to eat when it's hot outside.



    1. Hi Rosa! Welcome aboard and thank you for the sweet comment.

  4. Sigh, what a thoughtful and beautifully crafted post, with glorious recipe to share, of course! I think cooking inspiration comes from so many sources, and I love the variety and quality of recipes offered by blogging friends like you, Robin!

    1. Thank you dear Bentobird. I too love the variety, it's the spice of life 'eh?

  5. You are right - learning is the journey. Others recipes become ours, part of our fabric and family by testing them ourselves. From mental deconstruction after a taste, from a book, or blog - no matter. The more inspiration the better.

    1. We taste with our senses, from restaurants, cookbooks and potlucks. What we do with it is the journey. Well said Blorgie!


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