I made this Chilled Greek Yogurt Soup as part of our dairy menu Shavuot celebration yesterday. As I was pondering a first course for our holiday meal, I considered my soup options. The weather has been really hot here in Southern California, and the thought of tending a hot pot for a couple of hours didn’t really appeal. My mind drifted to cold soups like gazpacho and watermelon soup, but I wanted something that would fit better with the dairy theme of the holiday. After browsing my rather extensive (scratch that– ginormous) cookbook collection, I came upon a couple of recipes that provided the inspiration I needed. More on that below.
Cold yogurt soups are popular in the Middle East, particularly in Persian communities where yogurt is a major dietary staple. They are a great way to cool down in a heat wave; who can argue the simple brilliance of a no-cook soup? Some regions make a sweet version of yogurt soup, including aromatic elements like raisins and rose petals. I like the sweet soups, but I’m partial to the savory preparation I’m sharing here today. There is something about yogurt, dill, garlic and salt that is simply magical. I’m addicted to the combination.
I adapted this recipe from Olive Trees and Honey, a vegetarian Jewish cookbook by Gil Marks. Claudia Roden has a similar, sweeter version in The Book of Middle Eastern Food. Claudia uses water and ice cubes to loosen the texture of the yogurt, which is the way it is done in many Persian communities. I prefer Gil’s method of using milk to achieve a proper soup texture, which enhances the creamy flavor without diluting or diminishing the potency of the yogurt. I took a departure from both Gil and Claudia’s preparations by using Greek yogurt instead of regular. This might seem counter-intuitive, since Greek yogurt is strained of it’s moisture– after all, this is a soup, and you need moisture to make it smoother and more soup-like. However, adding milk to the strained Greek yogurt resulted in a creamier, more luscious “broth” with a richness of flavor you just can’t get from plain yogurt.
The resulting Chilled Greek Yogurt Soup was creamy, dreamy, and divine. The fresh herbs and garlic gave it a very Greek flavor… think tzatziki in soup form. If using whole milk yogurt it will be pretty rich, so serve smaller portions. This would also make a nice lunch or light dinner paired with a slice of whole grain toast and some smoked salmon. My family loved it. I hope you will too!
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- 3 cups whole or lowfat 2% Greek yogurt
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1-2 cups lowfat milk
- 1 lb Persian cucumbers
- 1/3 cup fresh chopped dill
- 1 tsp crushed garlic (or more to taste)
- 1/2 tsp salt (or more to taste)
- White pepper to taste
- Fresh mint sprigs or roughly chopped mint for garnish
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Chopped walnuts
- In a large bowl, whisk together Greek yogurt, extra virgin olive oil and milk. Start with 1 cup of milk then gradually continue adding more, whisking after each addition, till the yogurt takes on a soupy consistency. I stop adding milk when it reaches the texture of split pea soup. You can adjust the consistency according to your preference.
- Grate the Persian cucumbers into a separate bowl.
- Wrap the cucumbers in cheesecloth or a clean tea towel and squeeze to remove excess moisture.
- Stir the cucumbers into the yogurt along with the dill, garlic, salt and white pepper. Adjust seasoning to taste. Place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour, up to 4 hours.
- Whisk the soup once more before serving, adding milk to loosen the texture if required and adjusting seasoning as needed. Ladle chilled soup into bowls. Top each serving with chopped mint or a mint sprig. Optionally, you can stir in a bit of fresh lemon juice to brighten the flavor, or top with chopped walnuts for a sweet and nutty crunch. Serve chilled.
Other Great Recipe Ideas
Joy the Baker: Wild Rice Salad with Yogurt Vinaigrette
Weelicious: Baked Nectarines with Honey Yogurt Sauce
Simply Recipes: Cucumber Mint Raita