Low-carb soups summer favorites

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COURTESY of THE DECADENT DIABETIC Refresh your palate with this cool gazpacho soup that cuts carbs, but not flavor, with San Marzano tomatoes and fresh vegetables.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Summer is almost here. It must be time for soup?

Cold soups are what I am talking about. What is more refreshing and hearty in the heat of summer than a beautifully chilled soup?

As a person trying to eat a lower carbohydrate diet, not for weight loss but because I

have diabetes, finding alternatives can be a challenge.

Some foods are easier than others. Some like chicken, fish, pork and beef are naturally low in carbohydrates.

Then there are the soups. They were a great challenge for me.

My standby soups for summer were vichyssoise and gazpacho. Vichyssoise is a potato based soup that is elegant and delicious but very high in carbohydrates.

Real gazpacho is made using leftover bread to thicken the soup (and not to waste good bread). The flavor is from the tomato base.

In small enough quantities, tomato is not so bad, but as the main ingredient, the soup had too many carbohydrates for my diet.

So how did I manage to get back into my summer soup routine?

First of all, most of my cream of this and cream of that soups are as good, perhaps better, icy cold.

Cucumber soup is just a great warm weather treat, as are cream of cauliflower, celery, broccoli and spinach.

All are very easy to make and have very few, 12 or less grams of carbohydrates.

The color alone makes you feel cool with icy whites and frigid pale greens.

In the cooler months those same colors seem to make you feel warm and cozy. The mind does play good tricks on us.

I had to rethink gazpacho. It wasn’t the flavor of the bread I missed. It was the tomato.

You can roast or grill tomatoes for the base. Roasting or grilling just intensifies the tomato flavor so you can use less, therefore fewer carbohydrates, to get the same flavor. Too much work? I agree! San Marzano tomatoes, already diced for you, are readily available at most markets and even online. They are from a region of Italy with the same name. The flavor is so intense that like a roasted plum tomato, you can use less for the same flavor. All you have to do is open a can and add the other ingredients in a blender or food processor.

To replace the thickening of the bread, I keep the onions, cucumbers, and peppers chunky. You get a little crunch when you eat the soup.

I also like to add fresh basil and parsley to the soup. It gives it even more flavor and counteracts the canned taste from the tomatoes.

No different than the way I have had to rethink all my recipes, soups became part of my life again, with a lot of thought but just a little work.

And, as I said, these soups are as good cold as they are hot. If you are into it, try spiking the gazpacho with a little vodka for a Hot Bloody Mary soup.

Chef Ward Alper retired to Albuquerque after being a professional chef in Boston and New York City. He blogs as “The Decadent Diabetic: Taking Back My Life and Table,” thedecadentdiabetic.com.

CUCUMBER OR WATERCRESS SOUPS

Serves 2 full bowls

Net carbohydrates, 12 g. per bowl

1 medium to large sweet onion sliced

2-3 tablespoons olive oil or butter

2-4 cloves crushed and chopped garlic (depends on how much you love garlic)

1 big stalk of celery, roughly chopped

Black pepper to taste

Salt to taste

2 tablespoons flour

1½ quarts low sodium chicken broth

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

2 teaspoons fresh dill (1 teaspoon if you use dried)

3 large cucumbers or 2 bunches of well washed watercress

3-4 heaping tablespoons low fat sour cream

For watercress soup only:

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

No need to finely chop any of the vegetables in this recipe. They will all be blended smooth at the end.

For cucumber soup:

Peel the cucumbers and using the tip of a teaspoon, remove all of the seeds from the cucumbers. Chop roughly.

For watercress soup:

Remove the leaves from the bunches of watercress and wash thoroughly.

In a good-sized soup pot sauté onion in olive oil or butter until soft but not brown. Add salt and pepper about one minute into the process.

Add garlic and flour. Cook for one minute or so. Slowly add the chicken broth stirring so as not to have lumps. Add the juice and zest of the lemon.

Add ½ of the cucumbers or watercress to the broth. Simmer for 15-20 minutes on low heat. Remove from heat, let cool, and then add the remaining portions of the cucumbers or cress, reserving some if you wish for garnish. Using an immersion blender or food processor, whip the soup until smooth.

For watercress soup – add the sour cream and Parmesan cheese and blend to combine.

Quickest if you have an immersion blender stick, but it works in a processor or regular blender. Just do it in small batches.

Let cool in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours or better yet, overnight.

Gazpacho is a wonderful warm weather soup. No stove and no oven. It originated in Andalusia, Spain, hundreds of years ago when olive oil and vinegars came into fashion. It was originally created as a way to use up stale bread (waste not, want not) but this recipe replaces the high carbohydrates of bread with chunky vegetables.

The easiest way to make this and keep it chunky is to chop each of the vegetables separately and add them to the tomato base at the end. I also recommend holding back a little of the chopped vegetables for garnish. Don’t get too caught up in this being only a warm weather soup. Heated it makes an amazing soup for a snowy or rainy day.

GAZPACHO

Serves 3

Net carbohydrates 10 g. per serving

1 large cucumber, peeled and seeds removed (English/hot house cucumbers work very well)

½ medium (4-6 ounces) red or sweet onion

¾ cup chopped bell pepper (any color)

3 cups diced canned tomatoes (San Marzano if you can get them)

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

4 tablespoons good olive oil

1-3 cloves garlic grated

Salt and pepper to taste and your doctor’s recommendation

2 tablespoons fresh parsley

2 tablespoons fresh basil or 1 tablespoon dried basil

Sour cream for garnish

Cut the peeled and seeded cucumbers into chunks and process or chop them into very small pieces.

If using a blender or processor, don’t allow them to liquefy. Set aside in a small bowl.

Cut the onion into small dice and chop into very small pieces. Set aside in a small bowl.

Chop or process the bell pepper the same way as you did the cucumbers. Set aside in a small bowl.

Add the salt, pepper, and herbs to the tomatoes, vinegar and oil. Blend together.

Add ¾ of the chopped vegetables and stir to combine. Remember to reserve the remaining chopped vegetables for garnish and extra crunch.

Chill the soup for 2-3 hours or up to 2 days. Serve icy cold with a dollop of sour cream to smooth out the acid of the tomato or hot with a few chips made from low-carbohydrate flat bread or tortillas.

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ALPER: Writes a food blog for diabetics

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Cool down with cucumber soup in icy white and frigid pale green. Many cream soups are just as delicious cold as hot.

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