This morning, Andrew and I are off to Vermont for the weekend. We’re meeting up with his family and going to a wedding up there. Charming, picturesque, pretty New England, here we come. Give me white steeple churches and Shaker-style houses! Give me rural farmers’ markets and wild flowers! I’m ready for my break from the New York and my little home office.
These days, I do a lot of work from home. It can be totally amazing because when you work from home, you can pretty much start working as soon as you finish your coffee, still in your pajamas, and shower when you’re ready. Like when you’re taking a well-earned mid-morning break. You can also sneak out to the gym for a little bit, come back, and continue to work well into the late hours of the day because this is your time, and your time allows you to manage it your way.
The downside to working at home is that sometimes you get so caught up in work that you manage to get shafted with lunch. I know, as someone who earns her living by writing about and cooking food, lunch shouldn’t be an afterthought, but when I’m in the middle of doing something, taking half an hour away from my concentration is kind of disruptive. Then it takes me forever to get into the swing of things and so I might spend some time just staring at my screen, tap-tap-tapping away and then deleting what I just wrote. So sometimes, a nice piece of toast with avocado, olive oil and salt, is what I get for lunch. And sometimes I just forget to eat for hours. It’s not the best. I should really make better lunches for myself.
Working from home can mean taking no breaks, because you’re either working against a deadline, or testing multiple recipes, or editing pictures, or trying to work on other assignments, or thinking to yourself, “I should really be putting this time to good use”. In short – your time, while yours and yours alone, is really not all that leisurely, contrary to what most people with desk jobs think of freelancers.
And as a freelancer, I can tell you this much: I don’t ever feel like my work is done and from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep (and sometimes while I’m asleep!) I am, what people call, “in it”. My brain is constantly thinking about work, churning ideas, reworking failures, developing half-baked thoughts. Accidentally, I wrote you all these paragraphs, but I didn’t come here today to whine about my poor lunch habits. I’m here to tell you about summer soup. Soup that requires some vegetables, buttermilk and a food processor. And maybe a spoon.
We’re entering those days when the mere thought of coming near your stove makes you break out in sweat. Any additional heat to our apartment is an unwelcome thing – I want to keep as cool as possible with tall tumblers of iced water, crunchy salads, and refreshing sorbets. Personally, I welcome any meal that doesn’t have to be cooked with heat: besides the temperature control aspect of it, it allows me to indulge in the best the season is offering right now.
The farmers’ market is a true goldmine these days. We’re coming into that stretch when for a few months the harvest from the farms is plentiful, varied, truly glorious. There are strawberries and rhubarb, lettuces and herbs, new potatoes and sugar snap peas, asparagus and spring onions. We wind up cooking most of them simply – good, in-season fruit and vegetables need so little – they’re pretty much perfect as they are.
Soon, there’ll be cherries, peaches, apricots, and plums; raspberries and blueberries, and my favorite summer’s bounty – tomatoes. I’m counting down the days until I can make myself a proper tomato sandwich, generously slathered with butter and sprinkled with flaky sea salt – it needs little else, maybe a drizzle of good olive oil. And the gazpacho I made last year will most certainly make its way back to our table.
Nowadays, when I make my way to the market, on those early Saturday mornings, I have to choose carefully what to lug home with me – there are only so many bags, laden with the market booty, that I can carry home without collapsing under their weight. Sometimes, when I can drag a very sleepy Andrew with me, I get an additional pair of hands, but otherwise, it’s just Jennie and I, doing a balancing act with several sturdy totes.
On my latest market excursion, while grabbing a bunch of radishes and some herbs (one of these days I’m going to grow a window sill full of herbs), I spied cucumbers – the first of the season. I bought a few pounds: to slice into salads, add to water, and to make this chilled buttermilk soup I spied in Everyday Food a month ago.
The original recipe called for only a handful of ingredients: buttermilk, cucumbers, salt, and olive oil, but I wanted a strong herbal bouquet in addition to the refreshing cool of the cucumber. Really, I was looking for a salad, packing a punch, disguised as soup.
After slicing my cucumbers and adding the buttermilk, I threw in fistfuls of various herbs in my food processor along with some garlic and a few leftover radishes. And then, for a few minutes, I let the food processor whir and growl and do its food processor thing before my lunch was ready.
Ladled into a bowl, drizzled with a thin ribbon of olive oil, the soup is a beauty, possessing a quiet charm. This isn’t a soup that boasts loudly of its greatness, but the kind that gracefully elevates your summer lunch from ho-hum to a well-hello-there. Which is kind of great, if you ask me. If only I got into the practice of making it for myself with some regularity.
Cucumber Herb Buttermilk Soup
Inspired by Real Simple
There are many ways you can vary this soup – try adding a zucchini in addition to the cucumbers, use yogurt instead of buttermilk, add a pinch of cayenne for a little heat, squirt a lemon wedge over your bowl right before serving. The variations are endless. If you want a totally smooth soup, you’ll want to use a blender instead of a food processor. I wanted a tiny bit of texture in mine, hence the food processor.
1 1/2 pounds cucumbers (2 large), peeled, seeded and roughly chopped, plus thin slices for serving
4 large radishes
2 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons chopped dill
3 tablespoons chopped mint
3 tablespoons chopped basil
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon pepper, plus more to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil for serving
Toasted sourdough slices, for serving
1. Place everything but the olive oil in a blender and blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
2. Divide evenly among the serving bowls, and top with thin slices of cucumber, and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with toasted sourdough slices, if you like.
Soup will keep refrigerated for up to 1 day.