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What Does Fruit Soup Need? The Right Vegetable

June 27, 1996|MICHAEL ROBERTS

Both of my grandmothers used to make fruit soups during the summer. Although they were traditional soups, a child's palate found them exotic--fruits were healthy snacks or dessert, not part of the main meal.

Helen's rhubarb soup was fruity with a sour edge. Pearl's cherry soup was richly flavored and somehow transcended the obvious. I've polled the families, and my aunts know that a hint of dill seed was Pearl's secret chicken soup ingredient and that her liver mousse contained chicken gizzards. They still prepare Helen's potato kugel recipe, but no one seems to know how the old-fashioned summer soups were made.

I got to thinking about them when, a few weeks ago, one of my sous chefs prepared a fruit soup as a daily special. I couldn't reconcile memory with reality. For, unlike vegetable puree soups--which is basically onions, the primary vegetable that gives the soup its name and chicken or vegetable broth for moistening--fruit soups require a special flavor nuance to lift them out of their potential triteness.

A summer cherry soup is more than simply cherries cooked in broth. Peach soup is not a thinner peach puree. Sometimes the success of a fruit soup lies in the juxtaposition of savory ingredients with fruity ingredients. You might want the fruit to add a special aroma, or "finish," to an otherwise ordinary vegetable soup.

Think squash and cantaloupe. The cantaloupe aroma changes a hearty winter soup into a light, ethereal chilled puree. The same goes for a chilled combination of beet and watermelon. Cooked beets are actually sweeter than watermelon, but the watermelon "finish" emphasizes the earthy beet flavor. In other words, the two ingredients complement each other, resulting in a perfect flavor marriage.

Sometimes a single fruit needs a spicy background to save it from monotony. The following peach soup uses curry to give it power. Without these added flavors, you'd need sugar to bring out the peach essence--but then you'd have something like peach sauce, not a savory peach soup.

Potato and apple soup is a perfect example of two ingredients that marry well without the help of another ingredient. Yet, without a hint of vinegar to give a sturdy acidic background, your soup risks being bland.

Other rules apply. To maintain flavor integrity, cook the fruit only long enough to soften it. To avoid a murky aspect, choose ingredients that have similar colors.

Certain soups will need thinning after chilling. Be certain to have a backup of stock or broth.

Chilled soups often require more salt and pepper than hot soups. Taste the soup while still hot, but verify the seasoning before serving a chilled soup.

Roberts is chef and partner at the Twin Palms restaurants in Pasadena and Newport Beach.

CURRIED PEACH SOUP

1/4 cup oil

1 onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 pound peaches, preferably overripe

1/2 cup dry white wine

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

3 cups homemade chicken stock or low-sodium broth

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

Sour cream, optional

Heat oil in 3-quart heavy stockpot over low heat. Add onion and curry powder and cook slowly without coloring, about 7 minutes. Add peaches, white wine, vinegar and stock.

Cover, bring to boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. Strain and reserve liquid. Remove peach skins and pits. Place peach flesh in blender or processor and puree until very smooth. Add reserved liquid. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill soup and, if using, add dollop of sour cream before serving.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Each of 4 servings, without sour cream, contains about:

236 calories; 660 mg sodium; 1 mg cholesterol; 15 grams fat; 18 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 0.96 gram fiber.

CHILLED PUREE OF SQUASH AND CANTALOUPE SOUP

1/4 cup oil

1 cup coarsely chopped onion

4 cups diced kabocha or banana squash

1 quart chicken stock

1 cup diced cantaloupe

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

2 tablespoon milk

3 tablespoons plain yogurt

Heat oil in stockpot over low heat. Add onion and slowly cook, stirring, about 7 minutes. Do not let onion color.

Add squash and continue cooking, stirring, until most of their water has been released and they fall apart, about 35 minutes.

Add stock, cover, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes. Add cantaloupe, salt, coriander and cumin and cook 2 minutes.

Strain and reserve liquid. Transfer squash and cantaloupe to blender or food processor and puree until very smooth. Return puree to pot and add reserved liquid. Chill in refrigerator 2 to 3 hours.

Stir milk and yogurt in small bowl until smooth. Reserve until serving.

Pour soup into chilled soup bowls just before serving. Decorate surface by spooning 3 simple lines of yogurt mixture across surface of each bowl of soup. Using handle end of spoon, lightly drag across 3 stripes at 90-degree angle to make "feathered" design.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Each of 6 servings contains about:

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