Sensational summer soups

Traditional miso soup. | Priya Hutner

As the weather warms, many of us look to foods that are simple and easy to prepare. I try to avoid turning on the oven when it gets hot. Stovetop cooking keeps both the house and the cook cool.

Soup in the summer is counterintuitive to many people. Many of us opt for ice cream or cold beverages to cool down. In many Asian cultures and tropical places, soup is a mainstay in hot climates. Eating hot soup and spicy foods in warm weather can cool your body.

Janel Ferrin Anderson, a board-certified holistic nutrition consultant and functional nutritionist in Truckee, says enjoying a hot bowl of soup on a cold winter day makes perfect sense, but it’s all good for hot summer days.

“As a functional nutritionist, I’m always thinking about how food impacts our body and how it functions. A bowl of soup on a hot day raises our body temperature, so we sweat. Then, as the sweat evaporates, our body temperature cools off. It seems counterintuitive, but it feels wonderful,” says Anderson.

Brianna Brownfield, an acupuncturist and practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), explains that the theory is to cool the body when it’s hot out.

“You can combat the summer heat with foods that are energetically cooling in nature,” saysBrownfield.

In Chinese medicine, foods are categorized as cold, cool, neutral, warming or heating.

“Cooling foods are not literally cold, but they can produce a cooling effect in the body and reduce energetic ‘fire,’” she says.

Examples of cooling foods include bamboo shoot, bitter, gourd, watermelon (especially the white rind), radish, kelp, lotus root, watercress, celery, mint, cucumber, mung beans, duck and rabbit. Many of these foods are excellent ingredients for soup.

What’s cooking this summer?
For hot soups in the summer, I tend to lean toward miso with sea vegetables (most kids love this soup), summer minestrone, Italian wedding soup with turkey meatballs, coconut curry soup, kimchi soup, ramen and pho. Adding a touch of spice to any of these soups enhances the flavor.With an abundance of summer tomatoes, a light tomato soup and tossed green salad create a delicious summer meal.

I recently prepared a lovely lemon chicken soup. This is on my summer list. I also enjoy serving avocado chicken tortilla soup, a one-bowl meal packed with protein and fabulous flavor. A rotisserie chicken goes a long way. It reduces cooking time and means less time cooking over a hot pot.

Corn is synonymous with summer, which makes me think of cooking a pot of summer corn chowder.

For cold, summer soups gazpacho tops the list. Traditional Spanish gazpacho is one of my favorites. Brownfield suggests watermelon or cucumber gazpacho to cool the body and recommends adding a touch of chili pepper or chili oil.

Chilled asparagus bisque is perfect for the summer. Vichyssoise, a French potato and leek soup, is traditionally served chilled but can be served hot or cold.

A cold cucumber soup thickened with Greek yogurt and fresh dill reminds me of tzatziki. It’s a cold soup that cools the body and tempts the tastebuds.

My great-grandmother prepared two cold soups: borscht and schav. Borscht is a chilled beet soup often served with a dollop of sour cream. Schav originated in Eastern Europe, a sorrel-based soup served with hard-boiled eggs, cucumbers and sour cream. As a child, I loved this soup. The sorrel gives the soup a luscious, lemony flavor. It’s on my list to prepare this summer.

The farmers’ markets offers inspiration for creating a sensational seasonal soup.

What can you add to give your soup a kick? Chili peppers, hot chili oil, sambal, hot-chili garlic oil, serrano or jalapeño pepper, or if you dare, add Thai chili or habanero peppers.

Easy Miso Soup
From the kitchen of Priya Hutner

4 C water
1 large piece of kombu seaweed
5 T miso paste
¼ C dried wakame seaweed (soak in 1 C water for 10 minutes)
1 bunch green onions, sliced
1 brick tofu, drained, patted dry with a paper towel and cubed
Tamari or soy sauce to taste

Heat water in a large pot on medium heat. Add kombu and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Remove the kombu. Place 1 cup of stock in a small bowl and add miso paste, mixing well until itdissolves. Stir into pot. Add drained wakame and green onions. Simmer gently for 3 minutes. Add cubed tofu and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve with tamari or soy sauce.