This cucumber soup is an updated version of cold borscht soup, originally brought to the United States by Eastern European Jewish immigrants. The dish became so synonymous with Jews that the customary vacation area of New York Jewry--the Catskills--became known as the Borscht Belt.
The traditional cold borscht soup is most frequently made with beets. Yet the dish can also be made of a yeasty drink called kvass, with yogurt and tomatoes, or with cabbage. Incredibly easy to make, this soup is perfect for a quick summer dinner or to start off a Shabbat lunch. Using a homemade fresh salsa as a garnish will add a spark of color and contrasting texture.
2medium cucumbers, unpeeled (best to use organic or English cucumbers) 1 teaspoonsalt 2 Tablespoonsbutter or olive oil 2shallots or 1 small onion, minced (shallots will provide a sweeter flavor) 4 cupsvegetable stock or water 1 Tablespoonchopped parsley or other herbs (dill, basil or tarragon) 1/4-1/2 cupheavy or sour cream or plain yogurt (optional)
This recipe requires a bit of cooking. Use olive oil instead of butter and eliminate the sour cream or yogurt if you want a non-dairy soup.
Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Chop the cucumbers coarsely and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt. Set them in a colander with a plate or bowl underneath and let drain. The salt helps to remove additional liquid from the cucumbers. Discard the seeds.
Place the butter or oil in a saucepan and heat to medium. Add the shallots or onion, turning the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the water or stock and herbs.
Rinse the cucumbers quickly and add them to the soup. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and let stand for about 10 minutes to cool slightly. Puree in a blender or food mill. Be careful with the hot liquid in the blender. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
When you're ready to eat, taste and adjust seasoning again, and add yogurt or sour cream if desired. (The soup in the photo is without any sour cream or yogurt.) Garnish with salsa and serve.
Elisheva Margulies is a natural foods chef and holistic health counselor based in St. Louis, MO. She owns Eat with Eli and offers personal chef services, catering, cooking classes and nutrition counseling to the community. Eli is also involved with Hazon and works actively within her Jewish community to help people eat more health-supportive food and to kick the margarine addiction. Please visit www.eatwitheli.com.