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Chilled berry soup a winner

Cool fruity appetizer for a hot summer night

A strawberry fan is a fun garnish for summer berry soup. A dollop of sour cream and a sprig of mint also would make a nice finishing touch.

A strawberry fan is a fun garnish for summer berry soup. A dollop of sour cream and a sprig of mint also would make a nice finishing touch. Kathy Morrison

Let me say right up front: Fruit soup is not a smoothie. The wine in it, for one thing, makes it an inappropriate liquid to be gulping in the car on the way to work.

Ingredients for berry soup
Berries, creams and wine -- fruit soup ingredients.

But it's a delicious starter for dinner on a hot summer night. It also can be a brunch dish or even dessert. It's quick, delicious and full of summer flavors.

Fruit soup became a thing in the 1980s as nouvelle cuisine began to influence home cooking. (It has a long history in Scandinavian cooking, but that's another post.) I discovered cold fruit soup in 1984 when Margaret Fox published her "Cafe Beaujolais" cookbook, named for the Mendocino restaurant she owned at the time.

She credits this recipe to a friend who grew the berries for the first version.

The soup became my family's favorite. I have played with the proportions and the liquidity quite a bit over the years. It's best served very cold, in chilled bowls or shot glasses.

The ingredients are flexible: Substitute Greek yogurt for the sour cream, for example, or change up the berry content. Add cherries if you have some. Be aware that if you use more than a few raspberries or blackberries, you might have more seeds in the finished dish than you can tolerate. (Puree the berries ahead of time and strain them, in that case.)

The superfine sugar suggested here is often called "baker's sugar," but it works well in liquids because it blends faster.

Want to avoid using wine in the soup? I finally found a non-alcoholic substitute with a similar bite and color: Unsweetened cranberry juice.  Delicious!

Berries in blender jar
Red, white and blue in the blender jar.

Chilled summer berry soup

Makes about 6 cups

Ingredients:

3 total cups of prepared berries or cherries (my favorite is 2 cups strawberries and 1 cup blueberries)

1/2 cup granulated sugar, superfine if available

3/4 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt (regular yogurt can be used, but drain it first, then measure)

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup cold water

3/4 cup fruity red wine, such as zinfandel or Chianti, or unsweetened cranberry juice

Garnish suggestions: Strawberry fans, dollops of sour cream or whipped cream, mint sprigs

Instructions:

Place the berries and the sugar in a blender and puree until mostly smooth.

Add the sour cream, heavy cream and water, and blend until combined.

Pour the mixture into a pitcher or glass serving container. Whisk in the wine or cranberry juice. Chill the soup thoroughly before serving.

Serve in small bowls or glasses with garnish of your choice.

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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Feb. 18:

It's wet to start the week. When you do get outside, between or after storms, concentrate on damage control:

* Keep storm drains and gutters clear of debris.

* Clean up tree debris knocked down by wind and rain.

* Where did the water flow in your garden? Make notes where revisions are necessary.

* Are any trees leaning? See disturbances in the ground or lawn around their base? Time to call an arborist before the tree topples.

* Dump excess water out of pots.

* Indoors, start peppers, tomatoes and eggplant from seed.

* Lettuce and other greens also can be started indoors from seed.

* Got bare-root plants? Put their roots in a bucket of water until outdoor soil dries out. Or pot them up in 1- or 5-gallon containers. In April, transplant the plant, rootball and all, into the garden.

* Browse garden websites and catalogs. It’s not too late to order for spring and summer.

* Show your indoor plants some love. Dust leaves and mist to refresh.

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