My first summer in Washington, I was fairly miserable. I lived barely 10 blocks from work, but what had been a 12-minute walk in the wintertime slowed to a 20-minute slog come June and July, as I tried to avoid arriving at work drenched. My second summer, things improved a bit when I discovered the magic of alleyways and explored routes to find maximum shade. Even so, after walking home at the end of the day, the last meal I wanted to make was anything heavy and hot.
Now, my commute involves 20 minutes in the relative comfort of an air-conditioned (electric!) car, but I still have an appetite for lighter, quicker meals. It’s not just about avoiding heating up my kitchen with the stove top or oven; I also don’t want to weigh myself down.
Cold soups come to the rescue, every year. When I’ve got peak tomatoes from the garden or market, it’s gazpacho time, but when I don’t, I turn to something like Anna Jones’s Avocado, Cucumber and Fennel Soup. The prep involves merely cutting those three primary ingredients enough to stuff them into a blender, where you puree them with a little yogurt, lemon juice, ice and water. The jazz comes from garnishes of jalapeño, dill, basil and pumpkin seeds, all of which add pops of flavor and texture to the soothing, cooling, refreshing soup.
It’s simple to make. So simple that whether you’re ambling home through the heat or just trying to make it from one form of AC to another, you can handle it.
Avocado, Cucumber and Fennel Soup
2 to 4 servings (about 4 cups)
Flesh from 1 ripe avocado
1 large cucumber, chopped (unpeeled)
1/2 large fennel bulb (tough outer layer removed), cored and chopped
2 tablespoons Greek-style yogurt (may substitute coconut yogurt)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, or more as needed (from 1 large lemon)
1/4 cup ice cubes
1/2 cup cold water, or more as needed
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or more as needed
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Few fresh dill fronds
Few sprigs of fresh basil
1/2 jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup hulled, unsalted pumpkin seeds, toasted (pepitas)
Extra-virgin olive oil or avocado oil, for drizzling
Combine the avocado, cucumber, fennel, yogurt, lemon juice, ice, water, salt and pepper in a high-powered blender (such as a Vitamix); blend on high to form a completely smooth soup. If the soup seems too thick, add a little more water until it’s your preferred consistency. Taste, and add more lemon juice and/or salt, as needed.
To serve, pour into bowls and top with dill, basil, jalapeño and the toasted pumpkin seeds, then drizzle with the oil.
NOTE: Toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat for about 6 minutes, or until fragrant, popping slightly and lightly browned, shaking the pan to prevent scorching. Cool completely before using.