Blended Bliss-

If they won't eat salad, then give them soup – preferably chilled, to beat the heat. One of the most familiar cold soups is gazpacho, from the Andalusian region of southern Spain. This uncooked soup is a purée based on fresh tomatoes, bell peppers, celery and cucumber. Bread and hard-cooked eggs are often added, making it a satisfying meal.

Less familiar are salad soups – a combination of fruits or vegetables, spiked with seasonings and fresh herbs, and mellowed with creams, yogurts or juices. These are a refreshing alternative to the predictable bowl of greens dripping with dressing.

Whirled in a blender or food processor, they're made in seconds, are easy to eat, and any one is a cooling course at a summer brunch, ladies' luncheon or family supper. Make several ahead of time to offer a choice. Pour into pitchers, refrigerate, and when needed, set out on a tray with chilled glasses or cups.

These specialty soups need special breads to enhance them. Even if you don't live near a corner bakery, supermarkets and gourmet shops now carry an exciting range of artisan breads and rolls. Chewy olive bread goes quite nicely with icy, spicy Tomato Crush, while the red-white-and-blue Celebration Soup, perfect for Labor Day, cries out for a lightly sweetened fruit bread.

Creamy Gazpacho, inspired by a soup served at Timberline Lodge on the slopes of Mount Hood in Oregon, may be served with a coarse multigrain bread or a tray of raisin-walnut rolls.

And don't look down on plain old garlic bread! Warm from the oven, dust it lightly with paprika, then slice thickly and pile in a napkin-lined basket.

Spicy Tomato Crush (Pareve)

3 large beefsteak tomatoes, cored
2 Tbsps. fresh basil leaves
2 tsps. fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 cup vegetable juice
1/4-1/3 cup barbecue sauce
juice of half a lemon
4-6 ice cubes
salt and pepper to taste
leafy celery sticks for garnish (optional)

Cut tomatoes into 1-inch chunks.

Place in blender jar or food processor. Add the basil, thyme, garlic, vegetable juice, 1/4 cup barbecue sauce and lemon juice. Process until very coarsely blended, about 15 seconds.
Add the ice cubes and process just until chunky. Add a little more barbecue sauce, if desired.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour into glasses and insert a celery stick (optional).
Serve immediately.
Serves 4.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 52; protein, 2 g; carbohydrates, 11 g; fat, 1 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 303 mg.

Cucumber-Avocado Soup (dairy)

2 medium cucumbers, unpeeled and cut in chunks
1 avocado, peeled and pitted
3 Tbsps. white vinegar
11/2 cup vegetable broth
3/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt
3-4 fronds fresh dill
1/2 tsp. curry powder
salt and white pepper to taste
thinly sliced cucumber and croutons for garnish

Place cucumber, avocado, vinegar, broth, yogurt, dill and curry powder in food processor or blender jar. Process 12 to 15 seconds until smooth.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill.
Serve garnished with thinly sliced cucumber and a sprinkling of croutons.
Serves 4 to 6.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 91; protein, 2 g; carbohydrates, 8 g; fat, 6 g; cholesterol, 2 mg; sodium, 277 mg.

Berry-Cress Bisque (Dairy)

3 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1/2 cup sour half-and-half
1 cup pineapple juice
3 Tbsps. honey or to taste
1 Tbsps. fresh lime juice
cup watercress leaves
watercress sprigs for garnish (optional)

In blender jar or food processor, place the berries, sour half and half, pineapple juice, honey and lime juice. Chop coarsely.
Add watercress; process till leaves are finely chopped. Chill.
Serve garnished with a sprig of watercress (optional)
Serves 4.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 161; protein, 3 g; carbohydrates, 32 g; fat, 3 g; cholesterol, 10 mg; sodium, 23 mg.

Creamy Gazpacho (Dairy)

1/2 cucumber, cut in 1/2-inch chunks
2 scallions, sliced
1/4 tsp. minced garlic
1 cup fresh parsley, packed
1 can (14.5 oz.) Italian-style tomatoes
1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
3 Tbsps. balsamic vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3-4 Tbsps. thinly sliced chives to garnish

In a food processor or blender, combine all ingredients except chives. Blend until smooth.
Garnish with chives.
May be served hot or cold.
Serves 6.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 48; protein, 3 g; carbohydrates, 8 g; fat, 1 g; cholesterol, 2 mg; sodium, 263 mg.

Celebration Fruit Soup (Pareve)

1 package (10 oz.) frozen red raspberries in syrup, thawed
2 cups mixed-fruit salad
1 cup apple juice
1/2 cup canned coconut milk
1 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lime juice
3/4 cup fresh blueberries
4-6 Tbsps. (rounded) nondairy whipped topping
1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds

If desired, press thawed raspberries through a fine sieve to remove seeds.
Place in blender jar or food processor along with the fruit salad, apple juice, coconut milk and lime juice. Whirl until blended and smooth, 12 to 15 seconds.
Chill. Before serving, stir in the blueberries. Pour into shallow bowls. Top with a spoonful of whipped topping and sprinkle with toasted almonds.
Serves 4 to 6.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 182; protein, 2 g; carbohydrates, 30 g; fat, 7 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 6 mg.

Ethel G. Hofman is a cookbook author and a past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Reach her at: www.kosherfoodconsultants. com.



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