Chilled soup carries a stamp of posh. “Oh James, prepare the vichyssoise and the champagne for dinner, will you?” The first time that I can recall having chilled soup was as a impressionable 20-year-old college student at the home of a wealthy older man that I was interviewing for a story in the Chicago Sun-Times. His private chef served a wide, shallow bowl of soup of cucumber and melon. The flavor was so delicate, almost ethereal. I took almost as many notes grilling the chef about the soup as I did about my interview.
My mom taught me some valuable lessons while growing in the summer heat of southwest Florida. To truly dial down your core temperature, take a cool shower. She keeps a hotplate in the shed to cook on hot afternoons to avoid heating up the house and gardens only in the cooler morning hours. A couple of years ago while remodeling our house, I added my own coda. In the morning, prep chilled soup for lunch later in the day.
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 large leek (white and pale green parts only), sliced
- 2 shallots or ¼ small onion, chopped roughly
- 1½ pounds asparagus, ends trimmed, spears coarsely chopped
- 4 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
- 2 cups chopped spinach leaves (about 3½ ounces)
- 3 tablespoons parsley, roughly chopped
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- Salt, pepper
- ½ peeled pitted avocado
- 1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons sour cream
- 6 ounces of crab meat or cooked shrimp (optional)
- 4 oz. caviar (optional, yet wonderful)
- Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks and shallots or onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add asparagus and stock; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer until asparagus is tender, about eight minutes. Add spinach, cover and simmer until wilted, about 4 minutes. Add the parsley. Puree the soup until smooth. (See headnote.) Shift the soup into a large bowl, season with salt, pepper and cayenne to taste. Cool slightly, then cover with plastic wrap and chill until cold about two hours or up to one day.
- Just before serving, mix the avocado, lemon juice and sour cream in a small bowl. (If using crab or shrimp, add it into the mix.) Be sure to taste the chilled soup; often chilled foods need additional salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and place a small bit of the avocado mixture in the center. If you go for the caviar option, add a bit on top of the garnish.