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Chilled cucumber soup with fresh herbs

Time 10 minutes
Yields Serves 4
Chilled cucumber soup with fresh herbs
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One of the true joys of summer in the Southland is a trip to the Hollywood Bowl. Whether you dine in box seats with tables or on a blanket spread alongside a path, dinner is an important part of the evening. The Bowl’s season begins Friday.

Of course you can bring takeout food, but preparing your own meal makes the night more special. You needn’t limit yourself to sandwiches and bags of chips, either; it’s not unusual to see Bowl-goers unpacking full meals, complete with silverware and dishes, from coolers or hampers.

This menu is one you can easily prepare in half an hour. The beauty of it is that the soup, salad and dessert all chill nicely--tucked in an ice chest--as you travel to the Bowl.

The cucumber soup is light yet creamy, a puree of creme fraiche, chicken broth, cucumbers and herbs. It’s refreshing and does not compete with the delicate flavors of the crab salad. If your cooler is large enough, pack along some mugs for serving the soup.

Regular Bowl fans know that nothing’s too difficult for serving among the seats--cakes are passed on platters, champagne is uncorked, hot coffee is poured. So if you can, serve the salad nestled in a bed of whole butter lettuce leaves.

Take along a small serving plate and a spoon for passing. And don’t forget some fresh potato rolls and a little basket of sweet French butter--for a bit of style.

With this menu, the people next to you will be eyeing your dessert. Though peaches and raspberries in Chambord sound sophisticated, the dish is easy to make.

What to drink? This is a picnic that is cool and refreshing; a crisp Sauvignon Blanc or a bottle of Champagne might be the perfect accompaniment to a perfect evening.

Look for Japanese cucumbers at Asian markets and well-stocked supermarkets. Creme fraiche can be found in the dairy case of well-stocked supermarkets and gourmet markets.

1

Cut the ends off the cucumbers and discard. Cut the cucumbers into 2- to 3-inch chunks; save a 1-inch-long piece and slice it into 12 thin slices. Reserve the slices for the garnish.

2

In a food processor, combine the cucumbers, mint, dill, chives and grapes until smooth. Add the chicken broth and process until smooth, then add the creme fraiche. Season with the salt and pepper. Chill or transport in a chilled container. Serve in cups or bowls. Garnish each portion with 3 thin slices of cucumber and a sprig of mint.