- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 30, 2005

We don’t normally think of soup as a summer food, but soup can be a great choice for a light summer entree. Lightweight, highly seasoned broth is the perfect setting for fresh summer vegetables.

Appetites tend to be easily sated after long days in hot sun, so all you need to complete the meal is some freshly cooked jasmine rice, a small salad, and maybe a piece of fruit or a dish of sorbet (or both) for dessert. Don’t forget the Thai iced tea.

In this vegetarian version of a classic Thai soup, you can showcase your late August haul from the farmers’ market. Fresh corn, sweet basil (Thai or regular), cauliflower, red bell pepper, carrot, zucchini, jalapeno chilies all are at their peak. If you want you can increase the recommended amounts and let this soup cross the fine line into stew territory.

There is something wonderfully soothing about the flavor of coconut. Until rather recently, when Southeast Asian and Indian cuisines became widely popular in the United States, coconut was largely associated with desserts.

As the American palate has become more worldly and sophisticated, we have discovered that coconut has many amazing applications beyond candy and cookies. The deep subtle flavor provides a fascinating backdrop for savory seasonings, especially those leaning toward the hot end of the heat spectrum.

The basic broth for this soup needs to be made ahead of time but it is actually quite simple. All you need to do is simmer. The broth actually tastes best if made the day before and left to steep overnight. It also freezes well, so consider making extra and keeping several containers of it in the freezer. When you want to make the soup, just defrost the broth and proceed.

For Thai iced tea, brew some double-strength Thai tea. Chill it and serve it over ice with evaporated milk and a ton of sugar or sweetener. This ranks high on my list of guilty pleasures.

Coconut-lemon grass soup with basil and garden vegetables

The only unusual item here is the lemon grass, for which you can substitute lemon verbena tea. If you don’t have access to all of the vegetables, just use some or substitute others.


1½ cups dry white wine

4 14-ounce cans coconut milk

12 cloves garlic, peeled and bruised

5 stalks lemon grass cut in 2-inch pieces and bruised

12 slices fresh ginger root (1/4-inch thick)

2 3-inch jalapeno chilies, cut in half

To make broth, combine wine, coconut milk, garlic, lemon grass, ginger root and chilies in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover, remove from heat, cool a little and pour into a jar with a tight-fitting lid and allow to infuse, refrigerated, for at least 2 hours but preferably overnight.

When ready to make soup, strain broth infusion into soup, as indicated below. (Broth infusion will keep up to a week. If not making soup the same or next day, strain broth infusion before refrigerating. Let it come to room temperature before adding to soup.)


1 tablespoon coconut or canola oil

1½ cups minced onion

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced ginger root

21/4 teaspoons salt

2 cups cauliflower, broken into tiny florets

1 medium carrot, chopped

2 cups chopped cabbage

About 10 small mushrooms, quartered

1 cup fresh corn, shaved off the cob

1 small zucchini or yellow summer squash, thinly sliced

1 small red bell pepper, in short, thin strips

1/3 pound firm tofu, diced

1½ cups packed basil leaves (Thai or regular), coarsely chopped

1 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Cayenne pepper for the top, optional

Heat oil in a soup pot or Dutch oven. Add onion, garlic, ginger root and about half the salt and saute over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until the onion becomes translucent. Stir in cauliflower, carrot, cabbage, mushrooms, corn and remaining salt and cover.

Continue to cook for about 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in zucchini or summer squash and bell pepper, and cook for just a minute or two longer.

Pour in reserved strained broth infusion and heat to not quite boiling. Turn down heat and simmer for just a minute or two. Stir in tofu and basil, and add lemon juice to taste. Serve hot, topped with a little cayenne if you’d like it a touch hotter. Makes 6 to 8 servings.


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