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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 April 7

The warm wave coming this week will shift weeds into overdrive. Get to work!

* Weed, weed, weed! Whack them before they flower.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden is really hungry. Feed shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash. Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias. Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom. April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce and cabbage seedlings.

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