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Chill out with fresh peach soup

Recipe:  No dairy in this refreshing dessert or side dish

Peach soup in a white bowl on a blue background
Garnish the soup with peach slices, if desired. Serve the soup very cold. (Photos:
Kathy Morrison)

No way am I turning on the oven or the stovetop in weather this hot. Even using the toaster is pushing things.

But peaches, my favorite summer fruit, now are in full season. The fruit stands and farmers markets are full of perfectly ripe ones. How to use those lovely peaches to their best advantage?

Make soup. Cold. Icy, even. You can drink it like a smoothie, but it's more fun to enjoy it a bit at a time, dipping a spoon into the cold bowl and savoring the fresh peach flavor.

To give the soup some body I blended the peaches with coconut milk (the kind in a can) instead of yogurt or cream. A bit of ginger ale enhances the sweetness. (A light fruit juice -- apple or pineapple -- would work well, too.) A touch of lime juice and a little almond extract add notes of brightness without overwhelming the peach flavor.  Served in a chilled bowl, it absolutely defines summer. Take that, triple digits.

5 peaches, 1 lime and a can of coconut milk
Use the ripest peaches for this easy soup.

Chilled peach soup

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

4 or 5 absolutely ripe peaches

1 lime, halved (zest it ahead of time if you want to use the zest for garnish)

1 cup regular unsweetened coconut milk (about half a can)

1/4 cup or more ginger ale (it doesn't have to be flat)

1/8 teaspoon almond extract

Ideas for garnish (optional):

Peach slices, sprinkle of powdered ginger, finely chopped almonds or a sprinkle of lime zest

Instructions:

Prepare to peel the peaches by heating about 5 or 6 cups of water in a large microwave-safe container such as a glass measuring cup. (Or use a pot on the stove, but see my comment on that above!) The water should be very hot but doesn't have to be boiling.

Prepare a second bowl with ice water.

Peaches in a bowl of water
A hot water bath, above, followed by an ice water dunking will
loosen the peach skins.


Cut an X in the bottom of each peach and put a few peaches at a time in the hot water. Let them sit for 40 seconds to a minute. Remove them with a slotted spoon and dunk them in the ice water for about 30 seconds, then remove to a cutting board. Repeat until all the peaches have been dunked and removed.

Slip or cut the skins off the peaches, then cut the peaches in half and pit them. Slice the peach halves into a 4-cup measuring cup. Squeeze one half of the lime over the peach slices when there's about 2 cups' worth in the measuring container, then continue cutting until you have 4 cups of slices. Reserve any extra peaches for garnish.

Place the 4 cups of peach slices and the 1 cup of coconut milk in a blender. Squeeze the other lime half over them, then put the lid on the blender and puree the mixture until smooth.

Pour the mixture into a large container (such as a bowl or pitcher) that you can use to chill the soup. Whisk in the 1/4 cup ginger ale and the almond extract. Add a little more ginger ale or coconut milk if the mixture seems too thick at this point.

Cover the container and refrigerate until well chilled, or at least 2 hours. This also lets the flavors meld.

Chill bowls that will be used to serve the soup. When ready to serve, sample the soup and adjust the flavors to taste. Pour or ladle the soup into the chilled bowls and garnish as desired.






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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Feb. 5

Make the most of sunny days and get winter tasks done:

* This is the last chance to spray fruit trees before they bloom. Treat peach and nectarine trees with copper-based fungicide. Spray apricot trees at bud swell to prevent brown rot. Apply horticultural oil to control scale, mites and aphids on fruit trees soon after a rain. But remember: Oils need at least 24 hours to dry to be effective. Don’t spray during foggy weather or when rain is forecast.

* Feed spring-blooming shrubs and fall-planted perennials with slow-release fertilizer. Feed mature trees and shrubs after spring growth starts.

* Finish pruning roses and deciduous trees.

* Remove aphids from blooming bulbs with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap.

* Fertilize strawberries and asparagus.

* Transplant or direct-seed several flowers, including snapdragon, candytuft, lilies, astilbe, larkspur, Shasta and painted daisies, stocks, bleeding heart and coral bells.

* In the vegetable garden, plant Jerusalem artichoke tubers, and strawberry and rhubarb roots.

* Transplant cabbage and its close cousins – broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts – as well as lettuce (both loose leaf and head).

* Plant artichokes, asparagus and horseradish from root divisions.

* Plant potatoes from tubers and onions from sets (small bulbs). The onions will sprout quickly and can be used as green onions in March.

* From seed, plant beets, chard, lettuce, mustard, peas, radishes and turnips.

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