Monday, September 12, 2011


In general, ice cream and popsicles aside, I don’t like cold food. Even in the hottest weather, I prefer my salads at room temperature. And the less said about cold pizza, the better. (Ugh, I can’t get over the congealed melted cheese.) Obviously, then, I have never really warmed (ha) to chilled soups. Most of the gazpachos I’ve encountered have just made me feel like I’m eating a big bowl of salsa. Given that logic, when I spotted this cold avocado soup at Joy the Baker I should have assumed it would taste like eating a big bowl of pureed guacamole, but instead I thought, “Ooh, pretty!” and “Ah, corn and bacon!” Maybe it’s just that I really like guacamole, or maybe the warm topping made it seem less like sauce disguised as a meal to me, but I bookmarked it instantly and made it soon afterward, in the throes of a 100-plus-degree heat wave.

This soup is good, with a wonderful velvety texture. The dominant flavors are, of course, avocado and lime (which I was even more generous with), but the savory broth (the recipe called for vegetable, but I used homemade chicken stock because I like its flavor so much) and the dollop of dairy (the recipe suggested sour cream, crème fraiche, or milk, but I knew plain yogurt—specifically, Trader Joe’s nonfat European-style yogurt, which is thin but not watery and my go-to for stirring into soups and sauces—would be the perfect choice for me) save it from guacamole-dom. I took a taste after blending it up and liked it pretty well but wasn’t sure I could eat a whole bowl of it. But the topping—oh, the topping!

The original recipe called for “cooked bacon,” as though you would just happen to have some sitting around, and then had you sauté the vegetables in olive oil. LOGIC FAIL! The best part of bacon is the grease, specifically the heavenly, transformative things it does to whatever you happen to cook in it. So I fried up some bacon, removed it from the skillet, and then cooked the onion, corn, and jalapeno in it, which was absolutely the correct choice. My second gripe with the original recipe was that it called for parsley when, to me, cilantro is made for moments like this—big handfuls of it, too. I mean, with avocado, jalapeno, and corn, we’re clearly already rocking this soup southwestern-style, am I right? When the topping mixture was all softened and browned and generously seasoned, I took a taste and had to stop myself from eating the entire skilletful with a spoon while standing over the stove. Stirred into the soup, it elevated it from “Hmm” to “Hell yes!”, its smoky heat providing much-needed textural, temperature, and flavor contrasts to the cold green creaminess. Instead of feeling like I was eating a beverage or condiment in a bowl, I thoroughly enjoyed this as a refreshing, satisfying summer meal.

Sauteeing the topping in bacon fat and swapping in cilantro really made this dish extra awesome, but then I made a major misstep in packaging up the leftovers: Not realizing how much I was going to enjoy the interplay between the warm topping and the cold soup, I premixed all my topping and soup portions before putting them in the fridge (perhaps I was a bit distracted by the complicated serving instructions in the original recipe, which asked me to put the topping in the bowls and then add the soup around it; for me, that just ended up burying the topping). When I went to eat the leftovers, I realized this meant I either had to heat the whole thing up (Cooked avocado soup? No thanks) or eat it all cold. It turned out I didn’t enjoy the topping nearly as well cold—especially the soggy-chewy-greasy texture of the bacon—and it was clear I should have stored the two components separately, so I could microwave the topping and then add it to the chilled soup. If I’d done that, this recipe would have been downright perfect. Oh, well; live and learn. I’m almost hoping for another heat wave this month (not unlikely, given Southern California’s traditionally hot Septembers) so I have an excuse to eat this one more time before autumn sets in.

2 ripe avocados
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1–2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons plain yogurt (or sour cream, creme fraiche, or milk)
¾ teaspoon salt, plus extra to taste
1¼ to 1½ cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 ears fresh corn, sliced from the cob
1 small jalapeno pepper, de-seeded and diced
4 slices diced bacon
1 handful cilantro, chopped
Freshly cracked pepper to taste

1. To make the soup, place avocado flesh in a blender along with broth, lime juice, yogurt (or sour cream, crème fraiche, or milk), and ¾ teaspoon salt. Blend until the avocados are creamy. Remove the center from your blender lid, and while blending, slowly add 1¼ cups water. Soup will be done when smooth, with your desired consistency—feel free to add another ½ cup water if you prefer a thinner soup. Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary. Place in a covered container in the fridge (I just left it in the blender pitcher) while you make the topping.

2. To make the topping, cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and set on a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Add onion to the bacon fat in the skillet and cook until translucent and browned, about 5 minutes. Add corn and jalapeno and cook for 3 minutes more. Add bacon and cilantro. Cook until everything is warmed and just browned. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Divide the cold soup into four bowls and top each with one-quarter of the warm topping mixture (unless you’re planning on keeping some of the soup as leftovers—see my note below). Garnish with additional cilantro, if desired.

Serves: 4
Time: 40 minutes
Leftover potential: Soup will last for about three days in an airtight container in the fridge. I recommend storing the topping mixture in a separate container, so you can reheat it before adding it to the cold soup.

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