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Russian borscht garnished with diced cucumbers, shredded radishes, chopped scallions, chopped fresh dill, hard-boiled eggs and sour cream. (Credit: John Ross)
Russian borscht garnished with diced cucumbers, shredded radishes, chopped scallions, chopped fresh dill, hard-boiled eggs and sour cream. (Credit: John Ross)

Spanish gazpacho, French vichyssoise, Russian borscht and German kirsch kaltschale are hard to pronounce and difficult to spell, but they are four classic soups that are delicious on a hot summer day — and you don’t have to be crazy to enjoy cold soup. These soups are easy to make if you allow some time to let them chill down. They also travel well to picnics and boat outings. Serve along with a baguette and some good cheese.    

Here are my versions of these classics:    

GAZPACHO    

Remove the cores from and dice 4 ripe, medium-sized tomatoes. Place them in a bowl along with 2 diced Kirby cucumbers, 1 diced green pepper, 1 teaspoon minced garlic and 2 cups diced watermelon (include juice). Add 1 cup diced French baguette and combine all ingredients in the bowl of your food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped (do not purée).    Drizzle in 1/4 cup good olive oil, an 8-ounce can of V8 juice and 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar. Season with 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon pepper and a few drops of Tabasco sauce. Pulse a few more times and chill until very cold.    

Serves 8.    

VICHYSSOISE 

Melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter in a large saucepan. Dice the white part of 4 leeks and 1 Spanish onion and add to the pan. Add 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, cover and cook at very low heat for 15 minutes. (This is called “sweating.”) Dice about 8 small, white new potatoes, leaving the skin on. It should make about 4 cups. Uncover the pan and add the potatoesalong with 1 quart chicken stock. Simmer until the potatoes are very tender, remove the thyme and add 2 cups of half-and-half.    Season with 1 tablespoon kosher salt and 1 teaspoon ground pepper and continue cooking for another 10 minutes.    

Purée in a food processor or with a submersible blender. Chill until very cold.    

At service time, garnish with chopped fresh chives.    

Serves 8.    

BORSCHT    

Trim the stems and root ends from about 3 pounds of red beets and wash thoroughly. Spray them with no-stick and place in a shallow casserole. Cover with foil and roast in a 375-degree oven for 30 minutes.    

Remove from the oven and add 2 cups water to the casserole. Cover with foil and place back in the oven. Continue cooking until tender, about 20 minutes. Remove and cool, reserving the juice.    

Peel the beets and shred them on the large holes of a box grater and set aside.    

Add 2 cups of the juice to a saucepan along with 2 cups beef stock, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Bring this to a boil and add back the shredded beets.    

Simmer another 15 minutes and stir in 2 tablespoons of prepared horseradish. Remove from the heat and chill until very cold.    At service time, prepare the following garnishes: Diced cucumbers, shredded radishes, chopped scallions, chopped fresh dill, hard-boiled eggs and sour cream. Pass some or all of these garnishes at the table.    

Serves 8.    

KIRSCH KALTSCHALE (COLD CHERRY SOUP)    

Remove the pits from 1 1/2 pounds of fresh sweet cherries, with a cherry pitter if you have one, or by cutting the cherries in half and then in quarters with a paring knife.    

Add 2 cups of bottled pomegranate juice to a saucepan along with 2/3 cup red wine, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Bring this mixture to a boil. Dissolve 2 tablespoons cornstarch in 1/4 cup cold water and stir into the mixture. Bring back to a boil and add the pitted cherries and 1/4 cup kirschwasser (cherry brandy). Chill thoroughly and serve with a spoonful of sour cream. 

John Ross

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