There are few things that add a more refreshing touch of elegance to a hot-weather meal than a nice cold bowl of soup. Just as a steaming tureen in the center of a winter table can bring with it all the warmth we need to melt the ice and snow inside us, so in the summer the cool smoothness of a cold soup can act like a breath of fresh air to enliven an appetite that has wilted in the sun's heat.
Cold soups are found all over the world: Gazpacho from Spain and borsches given us by the Eastern European countries are wellknown examples. A whole different category is cream soups designed specifically for eating chilled.
Many people's reaction to this is to think that such soups will be too rich to be refreshing, but this is far from the case: Unlike some creams, the two soups on this page make use of no starchy thickeners to give them texture, and their richness of flavor is not made stodgy by a flour base.
If this sounds like the so-called nouvelle cuisine, that is because both soups were inspired by leading lights of that style: The almond soup is a variation of a recipe of the Troisgros brothers which has been adapted for serving cold. The original makes use of hard-boiled egg yolks as part of the binding for the soup, but these are not needed, as it thickens nicely upon chilling.
Down on the south coast of France, Roger Verge cooks with a very marked Provencal accent on one hand a love for experimentation and lightness on the other. From his book "Ma cuisine du soleil" ("My Sunshine Cookery") comes the notion of finishing off a pureed vegetable soup with whipped cream. He uses artichoke hearts; the present recipe suggests peas; and you will find that the technique works well with asparagus, too.
Both of these soups call for chicken stock; it is strongly suggested that you make your own rather than depending on a canned broth or, worse still, on bouillon cubes. The reasons for this may be learned by anyone with the fortitude to read through the list of ingredients on either of those products' labels. But there is no need to make chicken stock as a separate activity: If you are planning a cold meal to follow the soup, why not include some cold poached chicken?
When you poach a chicken along with an onion, a good-size carrot, a little celery, some thyme, parsley, and peppercorns, and its giblets (but not the liver), you get stock as a dividend. Or you can make use of the chicken, hot or cold, on one day and save the stock in the refrigerator or freezer until you are ready for one of these soups. If you keep it in the fridge, be sure to take it out and bring it to the boil every three days or so to keep if from going bad. This will obviously not be necessary if you freeze it. Cold Almond Soup 8 ounces blanched almonds 4 cups chicken stock 2 cups heavy cream Salt and pepper 1 cup sour cream
Chop blanched almonds to a powder. A food processor will do this in one operation, but in a blender it will have to be done about 1/4 cup at a time.
Combine chicken stock and heavy cream in a saucepan and warm them, not bringing them quite to the boil. Then whisk in the pulverized almonds and let the soup come to a simmer. It should simmer about 5 minutes. Turn off heat, add salt and pepper, and let soup cool slowly. When it reaches room temperature whisk in sour cream and refrigerate.
When it's thoroughly cold, check seasoning. If your chicken stock is very gelatinous or the cream in your locality unusually rich, the soup could thicken a bit too much. If this happens, just stir in some more cream or a bit of milk. Serves 6. Cold Cream of Pea Soup 5 cups chicken stock 1 1/2 cups young peas, shelled 1 1/4 cups heavy cream Salt to taste 3/4 cup chopped parsley, loosely packed
Bring stock to a boil and add peas. Depending on their age and whether they are fresh or frozen, peas will take more or less time to cook. Start checking for doneness after 1 minute. Peas should be only barely cooked or the fresh taste of this soup will not be attained. Add salt.
Puree peas with stock in a blender, food processor, or through a food mill. Let this soup base cool, then chill in the refrigerator.
When ready to serve, whip cream in a cold bowl with a cold whisk or beater. Salt slightly. Combine pea soup with whipped cream and stir in chopped parsley. Check seasonings and serve. Serves 6.