I might not have been willing to try this recipe if my internal organs hadn’t been melting. It’s so hot here, guys. And it has been for weeks. My herbs are crispy in their little terracotta pots. The central air is doing everything it can, and we’re still taking cold showers twice a day to keep our core temps down. I think I saw a demon the other day.
A not-so-unimportant aspect of having a food blog is making food. And then writing about it. This is becoming a problem, since I haven’t wanted to eat in three weeks. That tends to happen when it’s hot. So, flailing in desperation, I relented and made this soup. You should understand that I’ve got nothing against soup itself. The amount of my freezer space taken up by perfect ranks of sandwich bags filled with it can attest to that. It’s produce that I have issues with. It’s such a tease.
Walking through the produce section is like being drawn onto the rocks by the Sirens. Aisle after aisle, gleaming piles of perfection in every color, brimming with such potential. Fresh, crisp, and somehow seductive. And it’s all the better because of the time of day. I have zero patience for the shopping cart mambo, so I tend to do the groceries at about eight o’clock Saturday morning. That means it’s me, the senior citizens, and mountains of pristine produce: beautiful and absolutely untouched. Papery onions, plums with their frosted sheen. All things green. They haven’t been pawed or dropped, and their pyramidal piles are so enticingly...precise.
It’s at this point that I usually decide to bring them home with me. All of them. To hell with fridge limitations. And to hell with precedent, which states that I will collect a cartload of vegetables, bring them home with the most noble of intentions, then discover a pint of Cherry Garcia in the back of the freezer and leave the green stuff to get shriveled and sad in the crisper. This time will be different. I’m positively euphoric at the thought of pestos and slaws.
But now I have to bag them, and here's where the whole situation (if you’ll forgive the expression) goes pear-shaped. If there is some reason why produce bags have to be the most slippery substance on earth, I’d love to know it. I can get the bag off of the roll; that’s fine. Perforated edges: rip. Easy enough. But now I have to open it. And, as it turns out, this is the most difficult task in the entire world. This is counterintuitive: the bag is labeled: “Open at This End,” and there’s an arrow. But after fighting with the suggested end for 45 seconds, I turn it over anyway, just in case there was some sadistic labeling mix-up at the factory. No, that end is definitely sealed. Back to the beginning. I can actually see the delicate edges of the opening; I just cannot, no matter what I do, get them to separate.
Meanwhile, senior citizens whiz past me on scooters, shopping with a speed and aggressive focus that is usually reserved for the Iditarod. Despite the arthritis that's swelled their knuckles to approximately the same size as the grapefruits they’re buying, they’re still popping them effortlessly into those damn plastic bags. This is why my weekend always begins with a serving of crippling inferiority. I feel their pitying gazes burning into the back of my neck. A nice lady offers to open my bag for me.
This soup requires 5 avocados, a cucumber, scallions, cilantro and a lime. That’s 5 bags. Clearly, this is a demonic plot. But I’m no quitter….
Fifteen minutes later, I’m still hovering over the bins. I belong in an art film, frozen under the fluorescents while the seniors and the rest of the universe spin past me. My fingers slide over the plastic as if they’ve been laminated. I have fingerprints. It’s not like all I’ve burned them smooth with acid to escape my shameful career as a wombat smuggler. I am no more smooth and frictionless than any other human being. So why can’t I open the damn bag???
Eventually, I’m always forced to accept the nice old lady’s help. And I remember now why I eat substantially more cookies than fruits and vegetables. I mutter dire warnings into the cart as I slink off to the checkout. You’d better be the most fantastic summer soup I’ve ever tasted, I threaten. Or what? Or it’s the crisper for you. A slow, mushy death.
But now I’ve made the soup. And god help me, it’s too good not to make again and again. So it’s time to bite the bullet. I’m hiring a personal produce shopper. $317,000 an hour (in line with the apparent difficulty of the job), plus travel expenses. No butcher or dry goods duties – I’ve got those covered. Just the produce. Please apply immediately. I suspect I might already have scurvy.
Cucumber, Avocado and Lime Soup
by Marjorie Druker and Clara Silverstein
Do you know what it’s like to truly taste each component that makes up a dish? We often talk about how well flavors “marry together,” but in this soup, completely uncooked, the ingredients retain their integrity. It’s like seeing your tongue’s purpose for the very first time. Each spoonful is like a time-release experience, spilling over your tastebuds with a single, creamy texture but bringing each flavor to your attention in turn with a perfectly-timed precision. It’s like the classiest, most subtle fireworks display in your mouth, and the smallest amount leaves you entirely refreshed. What could be more fitting for the month of July?
Avocadoes [ 10, ripe, peeled and quartered ]
English Cucumbers [ 2, peeled and diced, divided ]
Scallions [ 1 bunch, diced, divided ]
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil [ 2 tablespoons ]
Lime Juice [ from 3 limes ]
Lime Zest [ from 2 limes ]
Chicken Broth [ 6 cups ]
Light Cream [ 2 cups ]
Cilantro [ chopped, 2 tablespoons ]
Tabasco Sauce [ 4 dashes ]
Kosher Salt [ to taste ]
Fresh Ground Black Pepper [ to taste ]
1. In a large bowl, mix together the Avocadoes, ½ of the Cucumbers , and ½ of the Scallions.
2. Mix in the Olive Oil, Lime Juice, Lime Zest, Chicken Broth, Light Cream, Cilantro, Salt, and Pepper.
3. Using a hand blender, puree the soup until smooth. If you don’t have a hand blender, this could be accomplished with a regular blender if done in small batches.
4. Stir in the remaining ½ of the Cucumbers and ½ of the Scallions.
5. Chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 3 hours before serving. Soup will keep for quite a while, but the cucumbers will lose their crunch after 2-3 days.
Makes 10-12 servings.
[Notes: (1) I halved this recipe and still found that it made far more soup than I could
eat for lunches for a week; partially, this may be because my appetite dips in the heat
and I find any serving size over more than about 1 cup to be grossly filling. Just be aware
that these are sizeable portions. (2) Like guacamole, this soup will brown with exposure
to oxygen. The lime juice certainly slows this process, and it is largely limited to the
surface of the soup; just know that what will start out as a lemony shade of pale
yellow-green will slowly darken each time you take it out of the fridge, stir, and serve.]