Beat the Heat: Chilled Shrimp and Cucumber Soup

It’s been a damned hot summer, and we all need ways to beat the heat. If you’re like me, when it’s in the high 90s, hot food doesn’t sound too appetizing, so here’s one of my favorite recipes, chilled shrimp and cucumber soup. This comes from The Silver Palate Cookbook, which I highly recommend. We received it as a wedding gift oh, so many years ago, and it was one of the best gifts–especially considering its price point. All the basics are straight from the cookbook–alterations are mine, and if they turn out badly for you (which they won’t), it’s not the book’s fault.

This soup is takes very little time and requires very little cooking (a great bonus on a hot day) and is delicious, creamy, and cool, blessedly cooooolllll.

– 2 large cucumbers (about 2 pounds worth, more or less).
– 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
– 1 tablespoon sugar
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined–get the smallest shrimp you can find. [I have cheated here and bought precooked salad shrimp. You just have to be careful not to overcook them or they’ll get tough. But it is better when you start with raw shrimp.]
– 2 tablespoons sweet (unsalted) butter. [Or if you don’t want to buy unsalted butter just for this, I’m sure regular butter won’t ruin it. I would stick to real butter rather than margarine, though.]
– 1/4 dry white vermouth. [Not being martini drinkers, we don’t normally have this in our house, so we have usually just skipped this ingredient. It tastes fine to me without it–in fact my palate isn’t sophisticated enough to tell whether vermouth was used or not.]
– Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste [Freshly ground? That’s great when I happen to have that around; when I don’t, the ol’ pepper shaker is fine.]
– 1 1/2 cups butter milk, chilled.*
– 3/4 cup chopped fresh dill (or a little more or less, to taste.]

1. Peel the cucumbers and chop them coarsely. You will run them through a food processor later.

2. Toss the chopped cucumbers with the red wine vinegar, sugar and salt, then let them sit for 30 minutes.

3. Rinse and pat dry the raw shrimp, melt the butter in a small skillet, then raise the heat, toss in the shrimp, and cook them for 2-3 minutes until they turn pink. Remove the shrimp with a slotted spoon and set them aside.

4. Add the vermouth to the skillet and boil with the remaining butter until it reduces to only a few spoonfuls left. Pour this over the shrimp, then season them to taste with salt and pepper. The cooking is now done.

5. Drain the cucumbers and process them briefly in the food processor. Add the buttermilk and process them until smooth. Add the dill, and process one more time, very briefly (about 1 second, according to the book).

6. Put the processed cucumber mix into a bowl, add the shrimp and the liquid they’re in, then refrigerate until cold.

It’s awesome. If you don’t like shrimp and/or cucumbers, your life will remain incomplete. Sorry, that’s just the way it is.

*Buttermilk. I think my dad used to drink the stuff. Once my brother and I went down for breakfast and grabbed a quart of milk to pour on our cereal, not realizing we had grabbed buttermilk. I took the first taste and gagged; the stuff was nasty. I warned my brother, but we were at an age when we had no trust in each other, so he didn’t believe me, took a bite, and also gagged. Served him right! Remembering this, while making the soup last week, I wondered if it was just the unexpectedness of the taste and/or my childhood taste buds that made it taste so bad. So I took a sip. Good lord, that stuff really is vile. Tastes great in this soup, though.

About J@m3z Aitch

J@m3z Aitch is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.
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