If I have a signature recipe my cucumber-wasabi soup is the one. It’s a crisp and quenching concoction that delivers a nice wasabi whoosh just as it passes your tongue. Right for a hot day. I’m famous for it among my friends and family, who all just call it ‘The Soup.” It has a story too.
I came up with my recipe after wasting time on a very disappointing batch of “the classic” cucumber soup. The process involved sautéing cucumbers in butter (!), then adding flour and chicken stock and lots of heavy cream. All that got mashed through a chinois, the valuable bits sent to the compost. I had my doubts, but held out hope for a miraculous transformation in the fridge. Alas, no miracle. The soup was creamy, but all of its rich butterfat, being cold, sealed my taste buds. Fatal flaw was that the signature flavor—cucumber—was barely significant. The takeaway from the experience—cooking cucumbers is ill advised.
Time for a fresher plan. I love buttermilk and go through a lot of it, especially in summer. One of my favorite cold summer sides is cucumbers and onions marinated in buttermilk (with lots of salt and pepper). After dinner one evening, tossing back some leftover buttermilk marinade on the way to the kitchen, the spinning marbles in my head started dropping into the right slots. This salty cucumber buttermilk is the key to a fresh cucumber soup!
A formula evolved over time and I made the soup for a lot of years. But the recipe resided in a precarious data storage system—those marble-filled slots in my head. One summer I was looking for a cucumber themed post for Lark Books’ blog (I did food posts when I worked there) and someone suggested my cucumber-wasabi soup. Finally, the spherical data got downloaded and distilled into a recipe. Now I’m calling it home to have a new life here on my own blog. And I’ve chosen it to be my FIRST LIVE* Extra Slaw blog post.
I haven’t changed my recipe much since the first iteration. Just a couple of tweaks. Funny, in that Lark post I mention how Skip and I were being asked to bring the soup to a lot of summertime covered dish parties. Now I mostly get emails or Facebook friends telling me that they’ve made their first batch of the soup and how everyone loved it. Hmmm.
So, as they say in WordPress, Hello World! Have some soup!
* I’ve been posting and piddling here since June while Extra Slaw was being set up. June is when I called in the professionals to help. At the rate I was going, trying to figure out WordPress, Child Themes, and CSS on my own (for over a year), the site was on course to be up in, like, 2018.
H U N T I N G ——— G A T H E R IN G
CUCUMBER skins give the soup a nice green tinge, so use organic or unsprayed ones. Overly mature, late season, or drought stressed cukes can have bitter skins so taste them before adding to the mix. This is a great way to use up fat overripe cukes as long as the seeds aren’t hard. WASABI powder and paste brands vary in strength, so you may need more than the recipe calls for to get enough kick. COTTAGE CHEESE adds interesting texture and a pleasing flavor to the soup. It’s an unusual ingredient to some, but I urge you to try it.
Makes 6 to 7 one-cup servings
The genius factor here (attributed to ingredients, not me) is that the base is nonfat dairy—buttermilk, yogurt, and cottage cheese—all of which are cultured (live!) and agreeable to the tummy. Leaving out butterfat keeps the bright flavor coming from the first bite to the last. Wasabi, dry mustard, and cayenne are carried with the soothing dairy blend to unpack a revivifying surprise—tingly head and cooling perspiration. The hotter the day, the more wasabi and cayenne punch I add.
FOR THE CUCUMBER BASE
- 2 cups (about 1 pound) chopped unpeeled cucumbers, tops and bottoms removed
- 1/2–3/4 cup (3–5) chopped scallions, whites and green
- 1 cup nonfat yogurt
- 1 tablespoon minced chives, fresh dill, mint, or a combination
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1–2 teaspoons wasabi powder or paste
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combine the ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until the mixture is smooth, about 30 seconds. This makes about 2-1/2 cups.
FOR THE SOUP
- Cucumber Base
- 2 cups nonfat buttermilk
- 1 cup nonfat cottage cheese
- 1 cup nonfat sour cream (or just go yogurt all the way)
- 1–2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 cup (about 1/2 pound) diced cucumbers cut into small cubes
- 1–2 teaspoons finely chopped herbs—chives, dill, mint, or a combination
- Cayenne pepper, to taste
Pour the Cucumber Base into a large bowl or pitcher and combine with the buttermilk, cottage cheese, sour cream (or yogurt), and lemon juice. Note: you can get a couple extra servings by adding more buttermilk and yogurt.
Stir in the diced cucumbers, herbs, and cayenne pepper.
Refrigerate the soup for about 30 minutes to let the wasabi bloom, then adjust the seasoning. Salty enough? Does it have enough kick? Maybe your wasabi is a wuss—add more! More dry mustard and cayenne will kick up the flavor too.
Cucumber-Wasabi Soup should be served really, really cold. Before serving I give it a 10- or 15-minute bump in the freezer on really hot days or before transporting. The soup remains fresh and delicious for about 3 days.
When my cucumber-wasabi soup is going to a party, or I’m serving it as an appetizer at a cookout, I put it in half pint mason jars. (We do everything in jars around here.) The glory here is you can jar up The Soup a day ahead and store it in the fridge. Bonus points if you’ve held onto the canning jar box!