Cool Cucumber Soup Meets Dry Roasted Shrimp
Three thousand years ago the English called it “cowcumber”. Charlemagne grew them in his 9th century french garden. I grow them in my Sacramento, California garden and call them cucks. I never thought I’d make soup out of cucumbers.
When I was a kid, we had tomato cucumber salad with olive oil and red wine vinegar all summer long. We only ate them when they were in season- roughly June through October. I, unlike my brothers, grew to love them.
My fondest cucumber memory was traveling in Istanbul, Turkey with my friend Charlie. Back then it was traveling, a.k.a. roughing it because I needed to make money stretch. That stretching was worth every cold shower.
Exploring the city we noticed a man pushing a cart loaded with cucumbers. When we approached, he gestured for us to come closer. He grabbed a cucumber, whipped out a knife, peeled it in literally two seconds, put it on a stick and sprinkled it with salt, all for .50 Lira. Back then that was equivalent to about .10 US cents. I would have frowned at eating a whole cucumber until that experience. But if you think about it, it’s really just like eating an apple.
My relationship with cucumbers has come a long way since then. It’s touched sunomono salad, greek salad, and the art of tsukemono (Japanese pickled cucumbers). This soup continues my affinity and is perfect for warm summer months. It’s adapted from a Jim Burke (Food and Wine 2008 best new chef) recipe. It’s not as easy as peeling and putting on a stick, but the taste is worth the additional effort.
Chilled Cucumber Soup with Dry Roasted ShrimpServings: 4 Prep time: 15 minutes Total time: 30 minutes
2 english cucumbers, halved lengthwise
2 garlic cloves, crushed
One 1-inch piece fresh ginger, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 lb uncooked shrimp (8 to 10), medium sized, shell on, vein removed
1 avocado, cut into slices then 1/2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 teaspoon shichimi togarashi or red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons mint, chopped
- Using a juicer, juice the cucumbers into a large bowl (the yield should be about 3 cups juice). Stir in the garlic, ginger, and 2 tablespoons lime juice. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator.
- Spread 1/3 cup of salt in a medium fry pan. Heat the pan on medium to medium-high until the salt is hot. Lay the shrimp on top of the salt and cook, turning once, until pink, about 4 minutes total. Remove the shrimp to a plate. Let cool a few minutes then peel. Cut them into 1/2-inch pieces and transfer to a bowl. Add the avocado, 1 teaspoon lime juice and gently mix.
- Strain the cucumber juice through a fine strainer into a bowl. Spoon the shrimp into the center of four shallow bowls. Pour the cucumber soup around the chopped shrimp mixture. Sprinkle a pinch of togarashi and mint on each bowl and serve.
Tip: If you don’t have a juicer, use a blender to puree the cucumber then strain in a fine mesh strainer.