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As temps rise, look to the fridge or freezer for cooling, refreshing soups

A trio of cold soups that get smoky depth from grilled produce. Prop styling by Nidia Cueva.
(Leslie Grow / For The Times)

Rarely do I actually follow my own advice. Chief example: Not cooking when it’s oppressively hot outside. Usually I’ll try to get around the dictum by cooking first thing in the morning before the heat has seeped through our thin apartment walls. But with the current heat wave still underway, I’ve officially given up. And not just on cooking but on chewing too. I’ve been happy to subsist solely on cold soups this week and will continue to until their bone-chilling relief is no longer needed.

I’m a classicist when it comes to soup, so, of course, I’m going to be eating lots of gazpacho and gazpacho-like soups that rely solely on the the juiciest peak summertime tomatoes for all their liquid. I love a good creamy almond soup too, and it’s even better when garnished with sweet-grassy figs. Cucumbers are a staple in my house the whole year, but in this heat, their cool crunch is my saving grace. For a soup, though, I purée them with yogurt for a clean blank canvas topped with small bits of crunchy radish or fresh herbs.

And to go with all those soups, you need lots of good bread. My colleague Genevieve Ko has a recipe for bruschetta with tiny tomatoes that goes well with all these soups or makes a great meal by itself with a glass of chilled wine. You do have to grill the bread, but that brief stint outside in the heat to get the char on the toasts will make the cooling relief it brings well worth it. (And if you have that grill, and the patience for a few more minutes in the heat, try out these grilled-then-chilled soups.)

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To keep cool in between my liquid meals, I made a passion fruit sorbet — brightened even more with orange and lime juices — and packed in the passion fruit shells. It’s a cute gimmick to add whimsy to life right now and, well, the only thing I hate more than cooking when it’s hot is washing dishes. But, if you’re not like me, and you have an oven in a big, well-air-conditioned kitchen or can stand a half an hour of heat, I highly recommend making Genevieve’s brown sugar cookies with maple drizzle. They look like those old-school iced oatmeal cookies from grade-school days, but these are much better, made with pure maple syrup and chewy from brown sugar. If anyone wants to volunteer to bake them then bring me some to enjoy, I’m ready and waiting with half a dozen wobbly sorbet-filled passion fruit shells in exchange.

Cold Tomato Soup (Salmorejo)

Time 15 minutes
Yields Serves 4 to 6

Buy the ripest, juiciest tomatoes at the market and let their natural sweetness shine through in this classic summer soup.

Cold almond and garlic soup

Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Yields Serves 6 to 8

Like Spanish ajo blanco, this almond-thickened soup is a great blank canvas for ripe figs and a drizzle of your best extra-virgin olive oil.

Chilled cucumber soup

Time 20 minutes
Yields Serves 4 to 6

Use small Persian or Japanese cucumbers so you can leave the skin on and enjoy all their sweetness in this refreshing soup.

Passion Fruit Sorbet

Time 15 minutes, plus 4 1/2 hours freezing time
Yields Makes 12

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Pick fruits that are heavy for their size and full wrinkled so their pulp is as aromatic as possible for this pucker-inducing sorbet.

Brown Sugar Cookies With Maple Drizzle

Time 55 minutes
Yields Makes about 45 cookies

Chewy on the inside and crisp on the outside, these brown sugar cookies are perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up paired with an iced coffee.

A new kind of Food Bowl

The Los Angeles Times Food Bowl, usually held as a monthlong series of events in May, is being held this fall in virtual form, with World Central Kitchen and the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank as partners. Events include a cook-a-thon fundraiser Oct. 17; cooking editor Genevieve Ko, cooking columnist Ben Mims and senior food writer Jenn Harris will cohost 30 chefs and celebrities from Los Angeles, the nation and the world. The Food team compiled an accompanying guide for the year’s theme, “Takeout and Give Back.”

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Closer at hand, an L.A. Times Dinner Series kicks off Sept. 5 with a three-course collaboration meal between Jon Yao of Kato and Mei Lin of Nightshade; the menu includes dry scallop porridge and pork belly ssam. Dinners will be picked up on the day of the event, and my colleague Lucas Kwan Peterson will host a video chat with the chefs while participants dine together online.

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