It’s official. I’m in summer-mode when it comes to the kitchen. The thought of turning on my oven makes me pull back in disgust. Heat? In this heat? Not a chance.
Surprisingly I found relief from the heat in this chilled cucumber and dill soup. I tend to struggle with cold soup. Gazpacho, with its chunks of vegetables, I’m ok with, but when it comes to pureed soups I sometimes feel like I’m eating spoonfuls of flavored milk or yogurt. After a bowl of the stuff, I typically find myself agreeing with lactose expert Ron Burgundy.
This soup however is different. For one it uses buttermilk. Buttermilk is too often ignored. Sour and tangy we reserve it for use only in things like biscuits, pancakes, and fried chicken. Traditionally, buttermilk was the liquid leftover from making butter. Today, it’s made by adding bacteria to nonfat or lowfat milk. The added bacteria thickens the milk and gives buttermilk its distinct taste. While most people draw back in horror at the word of butter (pity these people), buttermilk is actually a healthier alternative to cream or whole milk.
In this soup, buttermilk adds a tang that is like yogurt, but without the thick consistency. It pairs with hothouse cucumbers (scrape out the seeds with a teaspoon), fresh dill and mint, and some green onions. That’s it. Puree the ingredients in a blender, season with salt and pepper, and then chill the soup for at least 2 hours before serving.
To add a bit of color and texture, I seeded and diced a large ripe tomato and tossed it with a tablespoon of minced dill. While completely optional, I think it’s worth the extra couple of minutes and contrasts well with the soup.
And finally, a word on seasoning for the season. Summer’s here which means more cold dishes. It takes more salt to season a cold dish than it does a hot dish. For this reason, if you are going to serve a dish hot never salt it when it’s cold as it may be too salty once heated up. Conversely, season this soup after blending it, but give it an extra taste and adjust the salt accordingly right before serving. The soup may taste perfect when it goes into the refrigerator, but after a couple of hours of chilling it may need a little more salt to come back to life again.
Anybody that takes a class with me, knows my trick for seasoning. One of my instructors in culinary school told us to never season the soup itself. Rather, taste a spoonful of the soup. Get another spoonful, but sprinkle this spoonful with a few grains of salt. Taste it. If the spoonful with the added salt tastes better, you need to add more salt to the soup. If the spoonful with the added salt tastes too salty, you’ve salted enough. Genius, right? It’s a great way to learn how to season without the casualties of too salty soups along the way.
And with those tips, I leave you with this recipe for chilled cucumber and dill soup. Made with buttermilk…a good choice.
Chilled Cucumber and Dill Soup – Printer Friendly Recipe
While English or Hothouse cucumbers have significantly less seeds than regular cucumbers, I still take them out for this recipe. Hothouse cucumbers are typically sold wrapped in plastic. They are thinner and longer than traditional cucumbers.
2 Hothouse (aka English) cucumbers (about 1 ½ lbs), peeled, seeded, and chopped
½ cup roughly chopped fresh dill
½ cup roughly chopped fresh mint
2 green onions, roots trimmed, white and green parts thinly sliced
2 cups buttermilk
½ teaspoon kosher salt, more if needed
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, more if needed
For garnish: 1 large ripe tomato (seeded and diced) tossed with 1 tablespoon fresh minced dill
Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Refrigerate in a covered container for at least 2 hours. The soup can be refrigerated for longer than two hours, but be sure to give it a shake before serving as it tends to settle the longer it sits.
When ready to serve, toss the seeded and diced tomato with the tablespoon of fresh dill. Fill each bowl with the chilled soup and garnish with the diced tomatoes. Serve immediately.