I had this soup for the first time when I worked at Dairy Hollow House Inn, in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, owned by cookbook and children's book author, Crescent Dragonwagon, and her husband, Ned. It's another recipe that I've made so many times I don't even remember which of Crescent's cookbooks it came from or how far I've strayed from it. I do know that how I make it depends a great deal on my mood and what veggies I have in the crisper. Cucumbers are the only absolute. I'll walk you through the straight and narrow as I see it and show you where a lot of the meandering paths I've taken start wandering off.
A lot of my cooking skills I've picked up from cooks and chefs I've worked with over the years. I was a big fan of Crescent's cookbook and the Inn that she Ned, owned. We stayed there any time we went to Eureka. Liked it so much that Gene and I eloped there in 1992. We got married in the Summer Meadows suite on a cold Leap Day, in front of a nice fire in the stone fireplace, and with just a few close friends: Jeff and Dee, and Diane, standing up with us. The funniest part was that my Aunt Susan and my cousin Ann and her kids, Jennifer (of the snowflake wedding cake) and Sean crashed our wedding. That is so like my family and it was wonderful. I was freaked out about getting married. I've probably still not realized what a huge lifeline they gave me by being so happy they couldn't stay away.
What the heck, let's post a couple of pictures.
Obviously, we're post nuptials in this one. I think I was about to puke at this point. It's not that I didn't want to marry HIM, it's just that I was completely and totally freaked out about getting MARRIED.
I got up the morning of the wedding and announced that I couldn't do it, just couldn't do it. He kissed me, told me he loved me, told me everything would be fine, and then drove me into town and dropped me off at the Palace Bath House where he gave them a credit card and told them to massage me until I could marry him that night.
Three hours later...
I was still being massaged.
Kidding. I wasn't that bad.
The ceremony was lovely. In the tape when I say "I will" you can hear Gene let out his breath in a looooooooong sigh. But he swears he wasn't worried.
One of the great things about my family, like I've said before, is that we're all about equating love with food. I'd told Susan and Ann that because I'd grown up with the cake decorator mom and I'd already been in the hotel business planning weddings for a few years, I wanted nothing to do with a cake or a fancy reception. Susan and Ann both sweetly said "Whatever you want, dear, it's YOUR wedding" and immediately went out and ordered a cake to bring down to Eureka with them. Really, wasn't that sweet? Of COURSE you have to have a cake at a wedding. I was so glad they didn't listen to me and did it anyway. It wouldn't have been the same without it or without them there.
They picked out the topper too. It's very sweet looking. You know what I like best about it? I find it deeply moving that that's how they see me and Gene. That sweet. I mean that sincerely. Of course, it has been a lot of years since then...but I'll stick with that thought even if it's not still true.
Okay, back to the soup that I first tasted at Dairy Hollow House. I'll give you the basic recipe and then I'll tell you all the ways I screw around with it, depending on my mood.
Cascadilla: Chilled Cucumber and Vegetable Soup
1 medium English cucumber
1/2 sweet green pepper
1/2 sweet red pepper
1/2 small red onion
1 medium tomato, seeded
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1 green chile pepper, minced
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp fresh dill, or more to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup (non-fat) sour cream
1 cup plain (non-fat) yogurt
1-3 cups tomato sauce or V-8 juice
The variables are in the directions. The way I do it is this:
Because I like the crunch, I finely chop all the vegetables by hand, leaving the cucumber slightly bigger than the rest. After I add the sour cream and yogurt, I use v-8 juice and only add until the soup is still very thick but spoonable. That's me and how I like it because I not only eat this as a soup, I like to use it as a side dish so I don't want it to be too thin. I also eat it as an appetizer or in place of a traditional salad course.
But not everyone's like me, and to be honest, sometimes I'm in the mood for it to be less chunky. I have seen recipes for this where it's treated as a true chilled soup. In that case, large chop the veggies and run everything through a food processor or blender for a more uniform soupy approach. That's delicious also.
Also, if I have chimichurri sauce on hand, and I did this time from the freezer, substitute it for the parsley and garlic. Hmmm...another use for chimichurri.
Cascadilla, as a soup or a veggie side, has all the flavors of summer right there in one bowl and, even though I know it's pyschological, I can always feel the temp around me coming down on these last long hot days of summer.
Makes 6 cups if all 3 cups of V-8 are added.
Nutrition per 1 cup serving:
Calories 60, Protein 5, Carbohydrates 7, Fat 1-2
(These are the revised and correct counts nutrition counts)