Saturday, July 25, 2009

My Almost-Vegan Summer! Domestic Diva's Chilled Peach & Cucumber Soup with Redwood Hill Farm's Goat Milk Yogurt

With the advent of summer, I'm reminded of my love of seasonal eating. In the winter, when the temperatures plunge, I have a hunkering for hearty comfort foods and big, heady red wines. My oven becomes my best friend as I roast, braise and bake my way through the winter. I whip up hearty cassoulet, braise meaty stews, roast chickens and stew all manner of soups. Always happy to provide the wine, Kuzak dispenses hearty cabernets, big California syrahs and Rhone blends. Our cups runneth over.

By the time spring dissolves into summer, my appetite also changes into something different altogether. I begin to crave lighter meals, chocked full of the fresh fruits and vegetables that make summer the best time to eat. I toss together salads, blends of barely blanched organic vegetables and fruit, puree up chilled soups, and mix up ceviches spiked, with spicy peppers and chilled fish. For dessert, I eat fruit, fruit and more fruit. To wet our appetites, Kuzak serves up crisp, Burgundian whites and lots and lots of pinot noir (with the occasional syrah still thrown in for good measure).

This summer, I've decided to commit to an almost-vegan approach to dining. While it sounds radical, it's quite simple and fulfilling. The centerpieces to my meals will be the vegetables and fruits, foods usually relegated to side dishes in this country. Any dairy will consist mainly of fresh cheeses thrown in here and there for good measure. Proteins will consist mainly of fish and seafood served in tiny portions and pushed to the side to make room for the bounty of summer. The meals will be light, succulent, delicate, a little bit like summer itself.

Last night, the A-Girl came over for a hike and a light, healthy summer dinner. Having just visited Fish King in Glendale (more to come on this trip in later posts), I was fortunate enough to have a kitchen full of fresh seafood. So for our dinner, I threw together a jumbo scallop ceviche, chocked full of spicy serrano peppers and red onion, served over creamy avocado slices. We also dined on a red rice "risotto" studded with black olives and ribbons of parmesan reggiano and jumbo shrimp loaded up with garlic and lemon. The grand finale? A simple salad of butter lettuce and heirloom tomatoes.

Sounds like a lot of food, right? For protein portions, we dined on one scallop and two shrimp per person. That's it, but I promise no one left hungry, and even my offering of fresh peaches and blackberry cabernet sorbet for dessert was declined. So begins my almost-vegan summer.

I make a few solemn oaths in the pursuit of my almost-vegan summer:

1) Flavor will not be sacrificed! After all, I am the Domestic Diva. My creed is that life is too short to eat bad food or drink bad wine. My dishes will all be chocked full of flavor.

2) You won't even notice what you're missing! For proteins, I'll be mainly relying on small portions of fish & seafood (4 oz per person or less), nuts and beans. Occasionally, chicken or pork may be thrown in for diversity. I promise you won't even notice what's not on the plate!

3) Variety, variety, variety! I will be capitalizing on all the bounty that summer provides. Expect vibrant colors to be lighting up my plates.

4) Chill out! I'll also be whipping up a lot of chilled dishes to stave off the often sweltering summer heat.

To get you started, here's a chilled soup recipe! It takes advantage of the amazing peaches in season right now, combining them with cucumbers, for a nice twist on the traditional cucumber soup. Even Kuzak, who views cucumbers as his arch nemesis, enjoyed eating it!

A few notes on this recipe: I used a goat milk yogurt because I love the flavor, but plain cow milk yogurt will suffice. Also, when it comes to peaches, this is an ingredient I recommend buying organic if possible. Peaches carry one of the highest pesticide loads of any fruit or vegetable. Because they're in season right now, organic peaches can be found for very reasonable prices at farmer's markets and yes, even Whole Foods (they were selling them for $1.99 a pound last week). And finally, while this soup can be served in bowls, it's also great poured it into shot glasses and handed out, kind of like the perfect "amuse-bouche" to kick off a summer BBQ dinner!

Domestic Diva's Chilled Peach & Cucumber Soup with Redwood Hill Farm's Goat Milk Yogurt

2 cucumbers, peeled & seeded
2 large peaches, peeled & pit removed
1 jalapeno or serrano pepper
1/2 cup fresh dill
1 cup plain goat milk yogurt (cow milk yogurt may be substituted)
1 garlic clove, peeled
3 tbsp good olive oil
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 cup filtered water or vegetable stock
salt & pepper


In a blender, add all the ingredients except the water/stock. Puree the soup, adding only as much water/stock as necessary to thin the soup to the desired texture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill the soup in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours (can be made a day in advance and chilled overnight).

To serve, dish out the soup and then garnish with a little fresh dill. Enjoy!

Source for Ingredients:

organic cucumbers, Redwood Hill Farm goat milk yogurt & organic dill from Whole Foods

organic peaches from LOVE Delivery

Music on Tap:
Peter Gabriel - Miss from Hit/Miss
Eric Clapton - Just One Night (live)
Velvet Underground - Velvet Underground
Lenny Kravitz - Are You Gonna Go My Way?


  1. You've inspired me. I'm off to the market for some heirloom tomatoes...

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