Fine Cooking (June/July 2013)
Chilled soups are a rite of summer. Or at least a rite of summer issues of food magazines. They show up every June, just as predictable as daylilies.
We're fans. We love the idea of a cold soup as a refreshing way to start a summer meal.
The problem is flavor. Served piping hot, soups are a swirl of heady flavors -- aromas of vegetables, meat and spices rising seductively from the bowl. But cold soups have a, well, chilling effect on flavor. It's just harder to pack flavor into a cold bowl of soup.
Could this Chilled Fennel and Cucumber Soup from Fine Cooking pass the flavor test?
We loved the idea of this -- the cucumber-and-fennel combo sounded so light and refreshing. But we were disappointed with the result.
For one thing, this recipe makes a fairly small amount of actual soup. We halved the recipe, and by the time we ran this through a strainer and added the cream, we had two small portions of soup (the majority of which was cream).
As a result, the final product essentially taste like cream with the subtlest hint of fennel and cucumber. It was a little like eating spoonfuls of runny tzatziki.
Is it possible our cukes were less-than-flavorful to begin with? Sure, although we had just purchased them from the farmers market that morning. Is it possible we didn't use enough fennel? Maybe -- our fennel bulbs were somewhat small. Is it possible our mesh strainer was too fine, eliminating too much of the solids? Perhaps.
But in the end, we're not sure all those tweaks would have mattered all that much. At the end of the day, this is still going to be a soup that's mostly cream with some hints of herbs and cucumber. That's just not our idea of a refreshing summer soup.
This is part of a larger Fine Cooking feature on chilled soups -- maybe we'd have better luck with one of the other recipes. (The Chilled Beet and Beet Green Soup sounds especially good.) But we won't be making this Cucumber and Fennel version again.
Here are some other chilled soups you might like that we enjoyed as well:
- Chilled Sweet Corn Soup
- Chilled Fresh Pea and Buttermilk Soup
- Tomato-Cucumber Gazpacho with Grilled Parmesan Croutons
- Raw Sweet Corn and Cashew Chowder
How about you? Are you a chilled soup fan? Any favorite go-to recipes? Please let us know!
Chilled Fennel and Cucumber Soup
Fine Cooking (June/July 2013), recipe by Shelley Wiseman
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Nutritional information available at FineCooking.com
Yields 6 cups
Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer
1-1/4 lb. seedless cucumbers (about 2 medium)
1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. chopped fresh tarragon; more as needed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup heavy cream
Trim, quarter, core, and cut enough of the fennel bulbs into 1-inch pieces to yield about 6 cups. Reserve some of the fronds for garnish.
In a 6- to 8-quart pot fitted with a steamer basket, bring about 1/2 inch of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Steam the fennel, covered, until very tender, about 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, peel the cucumbers, quarter lengthwise, and cut into 1-inch chunks to yield about 4 cups.
In a blender, purée half of the cucumber, half of the fennel, 1/2 tsp. of the tarragon, 1-1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper until very smooth, about 2 minutes.
Set a medium-mesh strainer over a large bowl and force the purée through it with a silicone spatula. Repeat with the remaining cucumber and fennel, 1/2 tsp. tarragon, 1-1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper.
Whisk in the cream and the remaining 1 Tbs. tarragon. Cover and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours.
Just before serving, season the soup to taste with additional tarragon, salt, and pepper. Serve garnished with the reserved fennel fronds.
Make Ahead Tips
The finished soup can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 2 days. Adjust the seasoning and garnish just before serving.