Chilled Cream of Avocado Soup

Chilled Cream of Avocado Soup

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One of the most refreshing ways I know to start a summer meal is with a cold soup. The beautiful color, showcasing the bright colors of fresh seasonal produce. The first sip, which reveals vivid flavors and soothingly cool temperatures. The way you just want to go on eating it, spoonful after spoonful. There's only one drawback I know to many summer soups: You have to cook them. From classic vichyssoise (a smooth chilled leek-and-potato soup) to cream of watercress, you start by preparing a hot soup, cooking the vegetables before pureeing them. Even gazpacho, based on raw tomatoes, requires you to peel the tomatoes first by dunking them in boiling water, not to mention boiling eggs and frying croutons for the garnishes. Who wants to spend time in a hot kitchen just so you can enjoy something cool? Fortunately, there's the avocado. When fully ripened, its rich, creamy flesh soft enough to puree, the avocado is ready to eat raw. All you have to do is add a touch of seasonings and pop it in a food processor or blender with seasonings, cream and chilled broth. It's not just because I live in Los Angeles but my favorite avocados are the Hass variety, which were first developed in the 1920s and now account for about 95 percent of the fruit grown in California. Widely available year round, the pear-shaped variety simply has the best texture and flavor. You can recognize it by its pebbly skin, which turns a dark blackish-green when the fruit is ripe. Other, similar varieties may also be used, with names like Fuerte, Gwen and the Lamb Hass. Better still, many avocados are now organically grown, and you can find them in farmers' markets and well-stocked supermarkets. If your avocados aren't ripe enough to yield to gentle finger pressure, put them in a brown paper bag at room temperature, and they should be ready in 2 to 5 days. Adding an apple or banana to the bag speeds up the process, because they give off ethylene gas, which promotes ripening. Feel free to vary my recipe to your taste. Use vegetable broth if you want a vegetarian soup. Add a little jalapeño chile pepper to the processor or blender before pureeing if you want spicier results. To garnish the soup for a very special occasion, add a dab of caviar to each bowl. Even more reasonably priced salmon roe or domestically produced America sturgeon caviar works beautifully. Or substitute diced smoked salmon for an equally luxurious flavor. It's easy to be so creative when you don't even have to turn on the stove to cook!

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Northbrook, IL

Ingredients

  • 3 large, ripe avocados
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 to 2 1/2 C. good-quality canned chicken broth, chilled, solidified fat removed
  • 1 C. heavy cream
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Watercress leaves, for garnish
  • Caviar (optional garnish)

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Directions

With a sharp knife, cut each avocado in half symmetrically along its length, making sure to cut down all the way to the hard pit at the center. Holding the avocado with both hands on either side of the cut, twist your hands in opposite directions to separate the halves. To remove the pit, carefully hold the half containing it in one hand, keeping your fingers clear. Then, with your other hand, carefully but firmly strike the center of the pit with the knife's sharp edge to lodge the blade in it, and twist the blade to pull out the pit, carefully removing it from the knife. (Alternatively, use a spoon to scoop out the pit, keeping the edge of the spoon's bowl close to the pit so you don't lose much avocado flesh.)

With a spoon, carefully scoop out all the flesh from each avocado half and put it in a food processor fitted with the stainless-steel blade; if possible, keep the shell of each half intact and reserve it for serving, keeping them covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator.

Add the onion and half of the lemon juice to the avocado in the food processor. Process until smoothly pureed, stopping a few times as necessary to scrape down the bowl.

Set a fine-meshed strainer over a large mixing bowl and use a rubber spatula to press the puree through the strainer. Stir in 2 C. of the chicken broth and all of the cream until thoroughly blended. Season to taste with salt, pepper and more of the lemon juice. Cover the bowl and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Taste the chilled soup and, if necessary, adjust the seasonings with a little more salt, pepper and lemon juice. If you'd like it a little thinner, stir in some of the remaining chilled chicken broth. Place the avocado shells, if using, inside individual bowls to hold them level. Ladle the soup into the shells, or into chilled serving bowls. Garnish each serving with watercress leaves and, if you like, a small dollop of caviar.

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