Well, it seems that the lunchtime chocolate chip cookies from Something Natural and nightly trips to the Juice Bar for ice cream while on Nantucket have caught up with me. When I got home the number on the scale was four pounds above the number that I usually see, which, of course, is three pounds above the number that I really want to see. So depending on how you figure it, I have either four or seven pounds to lose. Depressing.
Despite the ever-present allure of ice cream and pie, summer is actually a great time to watch what you eat because there are so many delicious ways to fill up on low-calorie vegetables at this time of year. One of my favorite tricks for feeling full and satisfied by eating mostly vegetables is to begin my meal with a cold vegetable soup. As I have mentioned before, in the summer, I often make a big batch of gazpacho at the beginning of the week and my husband and I eat it as a first course all week long. The vinegar in the soup keeps it from going bad and the flavors actually improve over time. Cold soups like gazpacho are refreshing and hit the spot when it feels to hot to turn on the oven. Plus, they are usually very low in calories and all those veggies fill up your belly before you start in on the more caloric part of your dinner. Brilliant!
When I was on Nantucket, we had our nicest dinner out at a restaurant called The Sea Grille. The special appetizer that day was a yellow tomato gazpacho that was out of this world. (I should have eaten more gazpacho and less clam chowder throughout the whole trip but alas….) I had to try and replicate this twist on gazpacho when I got home. Yellow tomatoes are actually pretty easy to find these days at farmers markets and even a better grocery store like Whole Foods. The unexpected bright yellow color of this soup flecked with bits of green makes this an elegant first course for a dinner party, but it’s just as easy to make as regular gazpacho.
6-7 yellow tomatoes (depending on the size)
2-3 yellow peppers (depending on the size)
1 seedless cucumber
1 sweet yellow onion
2-3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Roughly chop all the vegetables. Puree them in batches in a food processor with the olive oil and vinegar. Season well with salt and pepper and cayenne pepper. Chill for at least four hours before serving. Garnish with croutons or diced cucumber.
But even I get tired of gazpacho sometimes. Luckily there are many other cold soups to make. Cold cucumber soup is a classic example. Every time I hear the phrase “cold cucumber soup” I think of the “Friends” episode which finally acknowledged the screamingly obvious fact that Chandler, Ross and Monica made more money than the other three. (This was back when Rachel was still a waitress.) In this episode, they go out to dinner and Rachel, Joey and Phoebe each order some tiny little thing to save money — cold cucumber soup in Phoebe’s case — and then at the end, Ross proposes that they all just split the check evenly. In her anger over this injustice, Phoebe refers to her dinner as “cold cucumber mush.”
Cold cucumber soup is actually quite delicious, so now that I have told you this story, try to get the image out of your head. My version of cold cucumber soup isn’t quite as low-calorie as my gazpacho, but it is not terribly fattening either. (To cut the calorie count even more, try substituting nonfat Greek yogurt for the sour cream.) And, again, having a cold vegetable soup as a first course might help prevent you from hitting the main course quite as hard. At least that’s been my experience. Like gazpacho, this soup is easy to make and can (and should) be done way in advance, which makes it great for entertaining. But hey, those things also make it great for a weeknight!
Cold Cucumber Soup
1 seedless cucumber
1 yellow bell pepper
1 Red onion
Juice of one lemon
3⁄4 Cup Buttermilk
1⁄4 Cup Sour Cream
2 tsp. chopped fresh dill
1 Pinch Cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Roughly chop the onion, cucumber and red onion. Place the vegetables in a food processor. Add the buttermilk, sour cream, and lemon juice. Process until smooth. Season well with salt and pepper. Stir in the chopped fresh dill. Refrigerate until chilled, at least two hours. Serve cold.
So, yes, it may be a million degrees where you live, but to me, this is definitely soup weather!