I haven’t been eating many sandwiches lately, so yesterday, when I reached into the refrigerator to cut a few slices off of my “sandwich cucumber”, it was… no longer suitable for sandwiches. It wasn’t rotten, just decidedly un-crispy, and definitely in need of quick rescue. I immediately combined it with the wealth of heirloom cucumbers that came in my CSA box this week to make a light and green-tasting soup.
The cucumber plays more of a supporting role here than in most cucumber soups, but it is still definitely present, and unites the flavors of the other vegetables behind the fennel. I filled the flavor out with some smoky bacon; if you are going to make this a vegetarian soup, you really do need to find a substitute. Try some black cardamom pods, or a few handfuls of pre-cooked kasha.
- 1 giant cucumber and 2 medium ones, plus the 1/3 of the medium cucumber that prompted this exercise, peeled and de-seeded
- 1 medium onion, more or less caramelized
- 1 strip bacon, including all the fat from the pan
- small handful spinach
- small handful arugula
- half a dozen ice cubes of stock or broth (I save bones and veggie butts in the freezer, and make stock whenever the bag fills up – this week’s batch was mostly onions, carrots and carrot tops, and summer squash)
- one ice cube of rose hip stock
- 6″ or so of fennel stem
- 1/4 cup buttermilk
- 2 spoonfuls of sugar
- small dollop garlic-lemon aioli left over from the wedding – if for some reason you don’t have my wedding leftovers in your fridge, a clove of garlic and squirt of lemon juice should do, but the soup does benefit from the extra fat
Put everything in a pot. Boil it for 10 min. or so, just enough to soften the veggies, then purée. You may wish to remove the fennel stem before blending; it’s very fibrous, and will wrap itself around your blender blades, which is very annoying to clean. If you do, then while you caramelize the onions you should also simmer the fennel in the stock, to extract more of the flavor.
Add salt, pepper, and MSG to taste. Garnish the soup with a sprig of fennel.
Cucumber soup is traditionally served cold, but it’s good warm, too. It’d be more satisfying served with a dollop of sour cream, but it’s healthier without – and besides, we were out of sour cream. And it would probably also be better if you let the flavors get to know each other for a day or so, but we were hungry.