I literally lapped up lunch the other day in my friend Sally’s backyard. She served a cold beet/cucumber soup with buttermilk and dill that was her version of a Polish classic, Zupa Letnia. I’d never tasted it, never heard of it, never knew a root-based cold vegetable soup could be fresh, light and utterly delectable.
It’s one of those things that sounds . . . interesting. I’m here to tell you that it was so off the chart delicious I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. The beet’s earthiness is transformed into a scarlet dream of a soup. Based on the Polish soup, Zupa Letnia, part of the appeal for me is that Sally put it together in a way that I can relate to. Some of this, some of that, whatever sounds good, put some in. At the heart of the soup, however, are the beets, cucumber, and some buttermilk.
I asked her for a recipe. Trying to remember the how and what was a challenge, but she came up with one. That’s the problem with intuitive cooking. Once in a while you make something worth repeating and if you don’t have it written down there’s no way you’re going to remember the nuances of the process weeks later.
Here it is in all its glory with Sally’s comments italicized. You have to taste it to believe it. And, please, feel free to mess with this all you want – make it your own local, seasonal, summertime soup.
Beet & Cucumber Soup ala Sally L.:
All ingredients for this soup are in season and available locally.
Ingredients: Beets; buttermilk; cucumber; plus, a mix of possibilities that you may add, or not, in various quantities: lemon juice, vinegar, balsamic, potato, fresh dill, tabasco, salt & pepper. Sally also added a little chicken stock which she says she might omit next time.
I boiled about 3 medium beets in salted water until tender, cooled and peeled them.
These went into the blender with about 3 cups of buttermilk. ( My brand was Sunshine, 1% cultured lowfat buttermilk. I loved it because it was not too acidic, but you can adjust for that later if needed.)
Also into the blender:
1 2/3 English cucumber, slightly peeled
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 Tbsp seasoned rice wine vinegar
1 tsp balsamic syrup
2 small waxed potatoes, cooked, not peeled
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
3 shakes tabasco sauce
Salt & pepper
The little extra things were added to give the soup some depth of taste, as I thought there was a chance it could be a bit bland. But I think you could simplify it if you wanted to share it. For example, I think you could lose all or some of these—the rice wine vinegar, balsamic syrup, potato, lemon juice, and bouillon— ramp up the dill, and add a bit of sugar if needed. The sour cream isn’t necessary, just pretty on top, but I guess it could be yogurt or buttermilk. I considered putting mint in it, which might have been good, too. You see what kind of cook I am. I didn’t put a lot of salt in, but what I did add was really necessary, and the bouillon base was also salty.
(More information about this Polish soup at Zupa Letnia.)
And then she served dessert: Vanilla & Honey Greek Yogurt with fresh berries. All of it, summer bliss.