I am not a fan of gazpacho. The mere mention of the word makes me cringe, conjuring up images of canned tomato juice, which I hold in equal disdain. Like “Jon” & “Kate” or “toilet” & “food”, “cold” and “soup” are two words that just don’t belong together. And so, I’ve lived for the past thirty two years, happily avoiding these chilled summertime soups.
Every now and then, I get a quirky urge to push my boundaries and see if my tastes have changed, but the incongruity of what essentially amounts to a savoury smoothie, always keeps me from proceeding past the first few sips. A couple weeks ago, I had one of those moments when I felt particularly adventurous and decided to wander outside my comfort zone while trying out a restaurant.
Rouge Tomate sports a fiercely trendy decor and a menu that reads like a collaboration between a hippie and a nutritionist. None of these observations boded particularly well for the food, but the restaurant came well recommended, and given the discounted Restaurant Week menu, I figured I didn’t have much to lose. I started off the meal with a cold corn and fava bean soup, which after one reluctant spoonful, forever changed my opinion of cold soups. Refreshing, nuanced and perfectly balanced, it tasted of sunshine, and corn so fresh that it made me wonder if they had a field of corn tucked away in the labyrinthine depths of the kitchen. Any meal that puts a smile on my face is a good one, any meal that changes the way I think about food is one I’ll never forget.
What’s a dish or ingredient that you used to hate that you now love?
So today as I meandered through the stalls at the Union Square Greenmarket in the heat of August, a pile of corn so fresh it looked like it was still growing, and a bunch of four golden beets with greens still attached whispered an idea into my ear… Chilled Corn Soup with Roasted Beets and Green Shiso Infused Oil…
And so it happened, I went from being a cold soup hater to someone who fantasizes about chilled cucumber consommé with creme fraiche and ikura or a cold bouillabaisse with raw shellfish and an albacore ceviche. Oh… the possibilities!
This particular chilled soup turned out to be delicious. It’s creamy without being heavy, light while still filling, and the way the low temperature highlights the freshness and flavour of the ingredients is sublime. Each sip is full of umami from the glutamate rich corn, pleasantly sweet from the beets, and the shiso infused oil adds a crisp green edge that gives it an almost mint-like cleanness. Make a meal of it with a piece of bread, or serve it as a palette reviving amuse bouche in a shot glass.
Cold Corn and Golden Beet Soup
2 medium golden beets
2 ears of corn
1 Tsp minced shallot
1 C soy milk
1 C low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
3 green shiso leaves (or other herbs such as thyme, mint, or cilantro)
salt to taste (I used about 2 tsp kosher salt)
4 green shiso leaves minced
2 Tbs olive oil
Wash the beets thoroughly, trimming any stems or roots off the top and bottom. Wrap tightly in foil and put on a baking sheet in the oven. Turn the oven on to 350 degrees F and roast for about 1 hour, or until the beets are tender. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool. Use a sharp paring knife to peel away the beet skin then cut them into small pieces.
Use a sharp knife or corn stripper to remove the kernels from the corn. Use the back side of a knife to scrape off every bit of corn and milk from the cob. Put the corn and pulp into a small saucepan and add the shallot, soy milk and stock. Cook for about 20 minutes at a bare simmer. Let it cool down to room temperature.
Add the cooled beets and corn to a blender then add the shiso leaves. Be careful not to overload your blender or the top may fly off. If you’re worried, just blend the soup in 2 batches. Blend on high for about 5 minutes or until the soup is smooth and frothy. Taste it and add salt as needed. Pour the soup through a sieve into a container with a lid and refrigerate until cold (preferably overnight).
To make the shiso oil, just put the minced shiso in a mortar with the oil and pulverize with the pestle. Strain the oil through a fine mesh tea strainer then set aside.
To serve, ladle the soup into the bowls, whisk the oil to recombine and put a few large drops in the middle of the soup.