The Foodie

cold soup, gazpacho, cucumber soup
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Cold Soups: Gazpacho, Borscht and More

June 19, 2010
by Isabel Cowles
Cold soup can be made with virtually anything: almonds, melon, hearts of palm. Served chilled, soup is a perfect summer option, either pre- or post-meal. More versatile than its warmer equivalent, both savory and sweet cold soup recipes abound.


Gazpacho is a Spanish soup; it is apparently adapted from the medieval recipe for ajo blanco, made from garlic, almonds, bread, olive oil, vinegar and salt. Eventually tomato, bell pepper and cucumber made their way into the mix. According to Mediterranean food writer Clifford A. Wright, “Gazpacho is traditionally made in a mortar and the bread is ideal when it is about a week old. The bread and vegetable mixture is pounded to a paste, and then you begin to add the tomatoes, then the olive oil, and finally the vinegar, tasting all the time to make sure you've got it right.”

There seems to be unlimited variations on gazpacho. A traditional Andalusian recipe is available from Cocina Casera Española, a Spanish cooking Web site.

Although he won’t take credit for “inventing” the practice, Mark Bittman of The New York Times discovered that the coarse, raw quality so often associated with gazpacho can be softened by adding sautéed cantaloupe. Bittman writes, “I peeled and seeded the tomatoes, then quickly sautéed them and the flesh of the melon in olive oil … to produce the mildest, most delicious, creamiest gazpacho I’ve ever tasted. With its bright orange color, it was also among the most beautiful.”

Cucumber Soup

Recipe History posts a recipe for “Tom’s chilled cucumber soup” that dates back to July 24, 1973. Like most standard cold cucumber soup recipes, Tom’s calls for cucumber to be mixed with sour cream, yogurt, garlic and herbs. provides a video recipe demonstrating how simple and quick cucumber soup is to make: add chopped cucumbers, sour cream, yogurt, broth, garlic, herbs, salt, pepper and puree.

You’ll find lots of variations on cold cucumber soup; adding avocado to the mix is especially popular. This recipe, provided by Cooking with Amy, is adapted from Market, Douglas Keane’s restaurant in St. Helena, California.

Vichyssoise (Potato Leek Soup)

Food historians generally agree that vichyssoise was first created by Louis Diat, chef at the Ritz-Carlton in New York in 1917. The Food Timeline examines some conflicting evidence suggesting that other chefs were behind this potato-leek concoction. But where coolness is concerned, Diat is the unequivocal father: he was the first chef to serve his potato puree chilled. Food Timeline provides two historical recipes, one each for the hot and cold varieties of potato-leek soup.

Soup-aholic provides a classic vichyssoise recipe from Marian Morash’s “The Victory Garden Cookbook.”

Hungarian Sour Cherry Soup (Meggyleves)

Hungarian sour cherry soup, or meggyleves, is a popular fruit soup. Food blog Morsels & Musings offers a recipe for meggyleves, along with historical background and typical preparation techniques. “Some traditional recipes reserve the cherry pits, wrap them in muslin then crack them a little before putting them in the soup,” the author notes.

Emily Halpern of Saveur magazine writes about her love of meggyleves, a family tradition. “No matter the season, my Hungarian-born grandmother's Bronx apartment always smelled of paprika and chicken fat … Even in the heat of summer, Grandma Rose cooked Hungarian foods that were unapologetically hearty … One perennial summer favorite broke the pattern, though: meggyleves, cold sour cherry soup.” Halpern provides a link to a classic recipe, complete with several mauve photos.


There are many ways to make (and to spell) borscht, a beet-based soup. James Meek of The Guardian explains that contrary to popular belief, borscht was originally a Ukrainian, not a Russian dish. The article explores borscht’s complex ties to the history and culture of the now-defunct Soviet Union. Meek writes, “Recipes, like birds, ignore political boundaries … Just as the Ottoman empire breathes phantom breaths in little cups of muddy coffee from Thessaloniki to Basra; so the faint outline of the Tsarist-Soviet imperium still glimmers in the collective steam off bowls of beetroot and cabbage in meat stock, and the soft sound of dollops of sour cream slipping into soup, from the Black Sea to the Sea of Japan and, in emigration, from Brooklyn to Berlin.”

Borscht can be served both hot and cold. When warm, the dish is made with beef and beef stock, but when cool, the soup is generally vegetarian. According to food blog Beyond Salmon, “The only thing these two soups have in common are beets, potatoes, and carrots. While the hot borsh is the quintessentially Russian dish (hearty and meaty), the cold borsh breaks every stereotype. It’s vegetarian, it’s colorful, it's cold, it's fat-free.” The blog provides a recipe for cold borscht.

More Cool Delights

Soupsong offers a substantial collection of cold soup recipes, from “Pear and Cambozola” to “Iced summer shrimp soup.”

Find more recipes that can keep you cool in our feature about Summer Salads or find out how to make your own ice cream in our feature on Ice Cream.

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