I love soup. Broccoli cheddar, French onion, chicken noodle... you name it, I will eat it. (Caveat: as long as it's hot. ) Cold soups have never been appealing to me. I've tried them in a variety of flavors and settings and it's always been very... meh. If a year ago you were to tell me that the first recipe I'd choose to share on this site would be for cold soup, I'd probably drop whatever I was doing and go make a piping hot lentil soup, just out of spite.
Last summer, I spent two months living in Israel. The weather in July and August reaches unfathomable levels of humidity and heat- not unlike DC, but much worse. The entire day is spent dripping in sweat, and breathing fresh air feels more like drinking water than absorbing oxygen. I constantly found myself with a waning appetite, along with an exclusive craving for anything that would have an immediate cooling effect over my body. I was staying with close family friends and at the beginning of each week, Lara- my host mother- would prepare a large pot of Okroshka- a traditional chilled, kefir based, Russian soup. I was skeptical at first but when I eventually gave in, there was no turning back. After a full day of traipsing around the markets and scorching streets of Tel-Aviv, nothing proved more refreshing and filling than a bowl of this tangy, silky-smooth, crunchy cold soup. In other words, on a hot and humid day this soup is a breath of fresh, crisp air.
The best thing about Okroshka (from the Russian word kroshit- crumble) is that it's budget friendly, easy to make, and consists mostly of ingredients that are probably already in your fridge. It is also incredibly healthy due to the massive amount of probiotics in Kefir and the fact that most of the vegetables are fresh, meaning they are packed with nutrients for your body to absorb. Trust me on this one- it will change your summer.
- 3-4 cups plain Kefir
- 6 green onions, finely chopped
- 3 medium sized potatoes, 3/4 dice
- 1 English cucumber or 2 Persian cucumbers, 3/4 dice
- 1 cup radishes, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup dill, rough chop
- salt/pepper to taste
- Boil potatoes until fork tender.
- While potatoes are boiling chop scallions, radishes, and cucumber.
- Chop potatoes in 3/4 inch cubes.
- Combine all vegetables into soup dish/pot.
- Pour kefir over vegetables, mix well, season with salt/pepper to taste, and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. When ready to serve garnish with dill and eat with a big slice of crusty bread.
This is a variation on the traditional Russian recipe which contains kvass, a fermented rye drink, not readily available in the US. The original version also calls for chopped boiled eggs or sliced ham which I omit because I don't like them. A dollop of horseradish for spice or sour cream for extra smoothness goes a long way in this dish. But mostly you should feel free to play around with any vegetables in your fridge- root vegetables such as carrots, turnips, even beets are all delicious variations on the original.
I hope you give it a chance and enjoy!