Cucumber soup

Starting yesterday on Facebook:

Kristin Bergen: Summertime, my breakfast is salty lassi with a cucumber tossed in it. Also cold cucumber yogurt soup with dill and toasted walnuts

Arnold Zwicky: Ann Daingerfield (Zwicky) made a wonderful cucumber-yogurt soup with dill (and toasted walnuts). I’ll try to find her recipe, but life is difficult and searching is hard.

Kristin Bergen > Arnold Zwicky: the base recipe I made it from was in I think the NYT cookbook circa 1970s, but I omitted the chicken broth. Use a sweet Indian style whole milk yogurt, not Greek, Brown Cow works. And the toasted walnuts get very finely chopped, and don’t over-do it. Tiny tiny amount of garlic. and some EVOO drizzled on top.

Well, it’s taken me six hours, but I think I’ve found the recipe that Kristin and I have in mind.

From the New York Times Large Type Cook Book by Jean Hewitt (1968):


(Note: I believe Ann always used dill rather than chives in the garnish. Me, I like a lot of dill.)

I see by the records that Ann and I kept in those days that we served this soup to a pair of gay male friends on 6/15/73 and again on the next day to Nancy and John Stampe (linguist David Stampe’s first wife and their son).

On the 15th, the dinner was the soup; pork satés with peanut sauce, rice, and Malagasy salad, and an unnamed dessert (Ann’s note: too many nuts).

On the 16th, it was the soup, roast beef, Hungarian zucchini and sour cream, chocolate angel pie, and slivovits.

(Many, many wonderful soups in these records. Lots of hot and sour soup, avgolemono, the house generic fish soup, spinach soup, the house generic green soup, and more.)

Other recipes from Ann. From her card files.

— Cucumber-beer soup, from Elsie Masterson’s Blueberry Hill Cookbook, 1st published 1959:


(Of course, I added dill.)

— Cold zucchini soup, from the New York Times of 7/27/75:


The general principle here is that anything you can do with a zucchini  / courgette you can do with a cucumber. Here the curry is the primary flavoring, but you can always add dill. Of course, I would always add dill, and probably chopped flat parsley as well.

Modern times. Several possibilities, but my favorite is from the Food & Wine site, “Cold Cucumber Soup with Yogurt and Dill” by Andrew Zimmern in June 2013:


Ingredients: 2 large European cucumbers (2 1/4 pounds), halved and seeded — 1/2 cup finely diced, the rest coarsely chopped; 1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt; 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice; 1 small shallot, chopped;  1 garlic clove;  1/3 cup loosely packed dill; 1/4 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves; 2 tablespoons loosely packed tarragon leaves; 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling; salt;  fresh ground white pepper; 1/2 red onion, finely chopped

How to Make It, Step 1: In a blender, combine the chopped cucumber with the yogurt, lemon juice, shallot, garlic, dill, parsley, tarragon and the 1/4 cup of olive oil. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and white pepper, cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.

How to Make It, Step 2: Season the soup again just before serving. Pour the soup into bowls. Garnish with the finely diced cucumber, red onion and a drizzle of olive oil and serve.

(A smidgen of red pepper, hot sauce, or curry powder can enliven the soup.)


5 Responses to “Cucumber soup”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    One thing about that Times recipe that would annoy me if I were ever to make this: 1½ cloves garlic. Now what am I supposed to do with half a clove of garlic?

    (In practice, I would probably round up to two cloves, or down to one if it was a large one.)

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Yeah, I don’t recall what Ann — more accurately, Ann and I, since she directed the enterprise but we shared the preparation tasks — did with that clove and a half. Almost surely we rounded up.

      • Robert Coren Says:

        In any case, “a clove of garlic” is such a variable quantity that one can improvise at will.

      • arnold zwicky Says:

        On the variability of “clove of garlic”: yes, of course. I suppose there are recipes that call for so many grams of chopped garlic, but I’ve never used one.

  2. thnidu Says:

    Oh, my! These look delicious, and what’s more, for me, so simple that I could almost certainly prepare them! I am going to download and save this. Thank you Arnold.

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