Springtime Is Served: Jalapeño + Cucumber Soup
Article and Recipe by Kevin Vaughn, Head Chef of MASA Club de Tacos.
Saturday afternoon I was greeted by an unexpected flood of “Feliz dia’s”, which is nothing out of the ordinary for this feriado ridden country. But when I found out what day it was the cynic in me thought that the felicidades weren’t entirely in order. It is, officially, springtime in Buenos Aires but you wouldn’t know it based on the flannel and jacket I put on this morning. My body is also still in full winter mode, because I woke up with an insatiable craving for one of my favorite soups: cucumber and jalapeño, which should be eaten alongside a ham sandwich while curled up in a ball on the couch watching a movie. It’s almost springtime; I have to be a bum while the weather still provides me with a cloak of shamelessness.
Putting on real clothes and going to the vegetable stand is enough of an accomplishment, is what I told myself, and I walked down the street to my favorite self-serve stand. After I’d gathered all my things I headed over to the checkout and an old woman, dressed rather nicely, blatantly side swiped me (there was physical contact) to cut in front of the line. I was about to tell her just how rude she was until I noticed her grandma-that-spends-money-blindly-at-hair-salon-kinda-grey-but-mostly-purple eyebrows, and decided she had enough problems to face that day so I POLITELY waited while the purple haired monster finished her business.
But back to the important stuff:
I hadn’t been a big fan of cucumber, either in solid or liquid form, until I tagged along with fellow MBA collaborator Sharon Salt for our first closed door experience at Recoleta 1343. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the evening; the menu I had been forwarded felt a little conservative to my particular tastes. Although I have to admit I was only really familiar with one of the meals on offer – the steak and fries. The meal was fantastic, and although the steak and potato wedges were my favorite part (in addition to what felt like unlimited wine) the chilled cucumber soup came in a very close second.
I was on a mission to recreate it. With one small catch, I needed some spice.
You will need the following to make 4 servings of this creamy and spicy soup.
- 3 jalapeños
- 1 rocoto
- 3 large cucumbers, seeds scooped out and thinly sliced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 to 3 cups chicken broth (depending on whether you prefer creamy or smooth soup)
- 1 teaspoon each of nutmeg, cayenne
- ½ teaspoon each of salt, fresh ground pepper
- Optional: avocado, plain yogurt
First you are going to need to decide exactly how spicy you want your soup. I find that my tolerance for jalapeño is much higher than rocoto, and so I have decided to add 3 jalapeños, minced with their seeds and veins, and 1 rocoto which I deveined and scooped the seeds out of. The soup was pretty spicy (more so served hot than chilled) and if you are a bit of a wuss I’d recommend omitting the seeds and veins altogether.
Chop up the chilis, garlic and onion.
Heat a pot with olive oil over medium heat. Add chilis and onion, and cook until onions become translucent. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Throw in the chicken broth, spices and sliced cucumbers. You want the liquid to cover the cucumbers. If the liquid is a little under that’s fine, the pot will be covered and the steam will cook the cucumbers up top. If you want a finer consistency, add extra broth. The two to three cups will yield a fairly thick soup.
Cover and cook over low heat until cucumber is very soft. This is the moment where impatience takes precedence and you make yourself a sandwich because 1. a watched pot never boils and b. you don’t feel like cleaning up your mess just yet.
Once cucumbers are pliable, transfer into a blender and blend until smooth. Be careful blending hot liquids, I throw a towel over the top of the blender just in case some scolding cucumber liquid squirts out. Add an avocado if desired. You can also add the plain yogurt and mix into the soup, I prefer to buy natural yogurt (which tastes similar enough to sour cream) and scoop a big lump on top when served.
Make yourself sandwich numero deux, throw on a non-thinking movie and laugh at the purple lady whose eyebrows have nothing on this cucumber soup.