Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Spicy Avocado-Cucumber Soup

It would figure that the temperatures would become reasonable again when I have my first cold soup to share. I made this at the height of our latest heatwave and it was a godsend to only spend a couple minutes at the stove for an incredibly flavorful dinner, a situation I know we'll encounter many more times as the dog days of summer approach. No-cook meals are an obvious way to beat the heat, but spicy bites are also a great choice for steamy weather, this soup a delicious melding of those two approaches.

Thai curry paste (red or green) is one of my favorite shortcuts to a quick and tasty meal, and one of my few complaints about the original recipe is it doesn't use that workhorse ingredient to full effect. Thai green curry paste is most predominately flavored by fresh lemongrass, tangy galangal (Thai ginger), and spicy green chilies and these bold flavors blend seamlessly with the creamy coconut milk, bright lime, and extra chilies. Cucumber is great base for this flavor melange, providing a light and clean canvas to feature this host of bold tastes. Avocado, with all its delightful creaminess and richness, is what makes this soup a substantial first course or satisfying light meal when accompanied a salad and bread. If you want to eschew any sort of cooking you can skip the toasted coconut garnish, but I think the brief encounter with heat is well worth it. Toasty, crunchy coconut is the perfect contrast to the spicy, creamy base, this easy dramatic accent bringing it all together in a feast for the eyes and stomach.

Spicy Avocado-Cucumber Soup
adapted from Food and Wine
serves 5

1 medium (approx. 12-ounce cucumber)
1 teaspoon Thai green curry paste, or more (to taste)
1 teaspoon sugar or honey
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
1 serrano, jalapeno, or Thai chile, seeded and chopped
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1.5 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, for garnish
Cilantro sprigs, for garnish

1. In a food processor, puree the cucumbers until smooth. Add the avocados, curry paste, sugar, lime zest and chile. Process until blended. Add 3 1/2 cups of water, the coconut milk and lime juice and process until smooth. Transfer the soup to a large bowl and season with salt. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a skillet, toast the coconut over low heat, stirring a few times, until lightly browned and crisp, 3 minutes. Let cool.
3. Ladle the soup into small bowls or cups, garnish with the toasted coconut flakes and cilantro sprigs and serve.

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