Cold Soup Revisited

There is no denying the power of a chilled soup to subdue the misery of the mid-summer heat. Gazpacho has long-ruled in the realm of my cold soup repertoire, though I've noticed a resurgence from a few underrated (but equally as tasty) rivals. Cucumber-mint, cool melon and chilled pea soup are a few versions that have traversed my palate this summer. The great thing about most of these blended soups is that they require little --if any -- cooking and can go from blender to bowl to mouth in minutes. 

When I came across Mark Bittman's recipe for a cold avocado-corn chowder in Cooking Light, I was eager to give it a whirl (and excited for a new way to use my bounty of fresh corn). With its natural fats and creamy texture, I expected the avocado base to hit somewhere between the less filling, exclusively veggie-based soups and the more substantial blends that use yogurt as reinforcement. However, I was surprised by the result of this broth, which, through the liberal addition of orange juice and water, lacked the viscosity that I had imagined it would have. That said, the flavor of the broth was quite wonderful. OJ and avocado turned out to be a delicious flavor marriage that became even more interesting through spicy accents of ground cayenne pepper. 

With its thin broth, this soup relies on raw ingredients for substance and crunch -- fresh corn off the cob, red bell pepper and green onions do the job well, with shredded grilled chicken breast and more diced avocado adding further texture. With a final shower of cilantro, the simple green broth is fully transformed into a refreshing, Southwest-inspired chowder.

AVOCADO-CORN CHOWDER WITH GRILLED CHICKEN [From Mark Bittman, Cooking Light August 2011]

2 ripe avocados, divided
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (optional)
12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast
1 teaspoon olive oil 1 small garlic clove, cut in half
1 1/2 cup fresh corn kernels (about 3 ears)
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Peel and coarsely chop 1 avocado; place in a blender / food processor. Add water, orange juice, honey, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and red pepper, if desired; blend until smooth. Place in freezer to chill while chicken cooks.
2. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush chicken with oil; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Place chicken in pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from pan; rub chicken with cut sides of garlic halves. Let chicken stand 10 minutes; cut or shred into bite-sized pieces.
3. Peel and dice remaining avocado. Combine with corn, bell pepper, onions and half of cilantro. Stir into chilled avocado puree. Spoon chowder into bowls; top with chicken and remaining cilantro.

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