The latest newsletter from Floyd Cardoz, the Verona resident who is the executive chef at Tabla restaurant in Manhattan, contains a recipe for a cold summer soup. As you might expect from a chef who has written an entire cookbook on spices, it has an unusual combination of flavors. But if, like my sister Sharon, you are facing an overload of cucumbers in your garden this summer, you might just want to give it a try. The basil seeds are available at the Patelshah Indian Grocery in the Pio Costa shopping plaza in Fairfield.
Chilled Cucumber Soup With Mint And Basil
Chef Floyd Cardoz
Serves 6 as a first course
For the Soup
1 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds
3 seedless cucumbers or a combination of seedless and Kirby cucumbers (about 2 ¼ pounds total)
2 ½ cups plain low-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons thinly sliced peeled ginger
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of cayenne
1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon basil seeds (labeled takamaria, optional)
About ¾ cup basil (preferably Thai basil) chiffonade*
About ¾ cup mint chiffonade
2 tablespoons cilantro chiffonade
1. Toast the cumin seeds in a dry small skillet over moderately low heat, shaking the skillet, until fragrant and a couple of shades darker, about 4 minutes. Finely grind the cumin seeds in an electric coffee/spice grinder, then set aside.
2. Cut the cucumbers into ½-inch-thick slices. Put 1 cup of the yogurt in a blender and add about half of the cucumbers and all of the ginger and sugar, a generous pinch of salt, and the cayenne. Puree the mixture until very smooth. Pour three-quarters of the puree into a bowl and add the remaining cucumber to the blender (do not add any more yogurt). Puree the mixture until very smooth.
3. Whisk the remaining 1½ cups yogurt in a small bowl to lighten it, then add it to the puree, whisking to blend. Whisk in 1 teaspoon toasted cumin, the lemon juice, a generous pinch of salt., and black pepper to taste. Chill the soup, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 2 and up to 8 hours.
4. Soak the basil seeds, if using, in ½ cup water for 10 to 15 minutes.
5. Discard any tough parts from the scallion and cut the remaining white and green parts into thin slices on a diagonal. Cut the radishes into paper-thin slices. (If you have a hand-held slicer such as a Benriner or mandoline, now is the time to use it.)
6. Taste the chilled soup and season with salt and pepper. Serve the soup in bowls, garnished with the scallion, radishes, the remaining ½ teaspoon toasted cumin, the herbs, and basil seeds.
* How to make chiffonade
The French technique called chiffonade is a handy way to chop fresh leafy herbs or greens. Discard any tough stems and bundle the herbs or greens together, like you would roll up a cigar. Then cut them crosswise into thin strips or shreds.