Several events converged in the making of cucumber-avocado soup yesterday.
The first was last month’s family trip to Kiawah Island, South Carolina, where we made our annual pilgrimage to Hege’s. Hege’s is a “brasserie Francais classique” focusing primarily on seafood. (Fred, of course, ordered steak.) On this trip, they offered a cucumber-avocado soup as a special. It was so good that even my seven-year-old niece loved it. The color was the perfect green for this kind of soup but it’s hard to describe exactly what it was–the only thing that comes to mind is a very unappetizing comparison to a 1970s appliance, only about six shades lighter. Or maybe the minty color of a bedspread you’d get at Pottery Barn.
Color aside, the soup somehow managed to taste like neither cucumber nor avocado, but a summer evening, with a dash of cream and chives. (The server claims there was no cream in the dish, but I am sure he lied–see below). I was determined to try this at home.
The second event was the avalanche of produce that is coming out of the nascent community garden at our church, St. John’s Presbyterian.
You can see the cucumber plants in the fourth box from the front. There are a lot of cucumbers buried in those plants–so many that our small congregation can’t quite manage all of them. And there’s parsley, enough to supply the entire city of Durham for the remainder of 2010.
Here, of course, was my opportunity to re-create that spectacular cucumber-avocado soup, only this time with parsley in place of the chives. I was a bit reluctant to replace those chives, since they complemented the other flavors of the soup so well. But I hated to see that parsley go to waste, and there’s only so much tabbouleh that one person can eat.
The parsley was a stroke of genius. As a garnish, it added crunchiness and a gentle undertone, with a hint of creamy pine nut balancing its natural sharpness. And like the original, this soup tasted just like summer.
4 large cucumbers, seeded and roughly chopped
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp. Salvadoran or Honduran creme
2 tbsp. heavy cream or half and half
6 – 8 large Italian (flat-leaf) parsley leaves, plus generous amounts for garnish (about 1 cup)
2 mint leaves, torn (optional, but these smooth out the flavor)
Salt to taste
Scoop avocado from peel and remove pit. Puree cucumber, avocado, and garlic in food processor until finely minced. Add remaining ingredients except for water and pulse in food processor a few seconds at a time until ingredients are combined. Add water until soup reaches the consistency of thin grits or whatever you prefer. Garnish with very generous amounts of parsley.
The soup is best if served immediately. The avocado will create a brownish film on top of the soup if it is kept overnight.
Note: The creams and avocado make this a rich dish, and I noticed a bit of greasiness around my mouth after each bite that some might find unpleasant. To correct this I would suggest reducing the Salvadoran creme to a teaspoon and substituting half and half or whole milk for the heavy cream, or even omitting these and adding chicken broth until the dish is the proper consistency. I did not have chicken broth on hand when I made this, and that may well be what Hege’s used to get the right flavor instead of cream. But I still think the server lied.
Have I told you that I've found a brilliant way to peel and pit an avocado? It only works if you don't need it looking neat and sliced, though.
Cut the avocado in half. Twist the halves apart. Hold the avocado cut side down over your chosen receptacle. Squeeze gently at the sides until the pit pops out (you might need to scrape a bit of the meat off the pit, but it usually pops out clean). After that, just squeeze the peel from the top down and it all smooshes into the bowl. Or onto your waiting slice of bread, if you're me. If the peel breaks at the top you sometimes get some ooze out of the top, but you can just scrape that off.
I'm glad you tried to replicate that soup. Since I still managed to lose over 5 pounds after that trip, I'm not sure who to believe about the cream. Although obviously I will believe my sister over some random stranger.
while we're on the subject of cucumbers, could you give me the rough guidelines for that cucumber salad you made at the beach? I find myself reminiscing about it lately.
Hulga, I'm afraid I don't even remember making a cucumber salad at the beach. Can you remind me what it was like?
Jinjifore–I will try your avocado tip, especially since I bought 3 of them for a dish that I ended up not making. I am glad you believe me over a random stranger. For now.
it was nothing fancy, just sliced cucumbers in a light white dressing. I'm guessing sour cream with something.