cucumber à la julia child

This week would have been the 102nd birthday of everyone’s favorite food maven and former spy Julia Child. Julia was a firm believer in following your heart, stepping outside of your comfort zone and embracing life regardless of the obstacles placed in front of you. In honor of her and all she has given to a world of home cooks and great chefs alike, I have decided to reblog my post about Julia from last August and my (her) recipe for Cold Cucumber & Potato Soup.

Until next post I’ll leave you with these wise words from the beloved Julia Child:

“The measure of achievement 
is not winning awards.
It’s doing something that you appreciate,
something you believe is worthwhile.”

Well said Julia, I couldn’t agree more…

Around this time each summer two things happen in my garden. The squirrels destroy my corn stalks (evil no-good rodents) and my tomato and cucumber plants explode with fruit. An over abundance of tomatoes is never a problem, I use them in salsa and salads of all kinds and for my Sweet Summer Sauce, but cucumbers are a bit more tricky. I’ve attempted to make pickles, only to end up with a soggy vinegary mess. I’ve given some away, but believe it or not a lot of people don’t like cucumbers (I know, can you imagine?!?) and I’ve eaten them simply sliced and in salads, but there are only so many cucumber salads that even this girl can eat! So I set out on a mission to find another use for all these cukes.

My initial thought was that I could try to bake with them like you would grated zucchini, they really are almost the same vegetable after all. In fact I’m sure they would be the perfect zucchini substitute in these Pineapple-Zucchini Muffins and with back-to-school only a few weeks away I think that’s exactly what I’ll do (don’t tell my son). But muffins weren’t what I felt like making amidst this August heat, so I continued to wade through my cookbook cabinet in search of inspiration. And there it was, in the NY Times food section that I had saved from last August. August 15, 2012 had been Julia Child’s 100th birthday and the food world had celebrated it in great fashion. Julia Child— the cooking and culinary legend and inspiration to generations of home cooks. She was “absolutly fabulous”. And here I stood, just days away from Julia’s 101st birthday and in need of cucumber inspiration. “Hmm, what would Julia make?” I thought to myself. That’s when I heard a warbly voice say “Potages aux Concombres!” Okay I didn’t actually hear Julia’s voice from the great beyond, but I did discover an old recipe of hers for cold cucumber soup which sounded perfect but for one exception; to thicken the soup she had used farina— that’s where she lost me. I would rather use a thickener that would add flavor to the soup as well as substance (sorry Julia). A bit more research and I found a vichyssoise recipe that seemed to have some of the elements Julia’s recipe had been missing, namely potato and buttermilk. It was at that moment, in my little New Jersey kitchen that a Julia Child/Cooking Light cold cucumber and potato soup was born.

Bon appétit and happy birthday Julia, thank you for being you!

Cold Cucumber & Potato Soup
This soup may not be for everyone, including my children and husband. But that doesn’t mean it’s not delicious and wouldn’t be the perfect first course on a hot summer day.

cucumber soup3

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 leek, halved and sliced thin
2 stalks celery, sliced thin
3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1 cup sweet onion, chopped
6 1/2 cups cucumber (about 4), peeled, seeded and chopped
3 cups baking potato, peeled and cubed (about 2)
3 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1 cup light buttermilk
1/4 cup heavy cream (as an homage to Julia)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
snipped fresh chives, for garnish
Greek yogurt, for garnish

  1. In a large dutch oven over a medium-low flame heat the oil. Add the onion, leek, celery and garlic and cook 6-8 minutes or until onion is transparent, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add to the pot the chopped cucumber, potato, and broth; cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes or until potato is very tender, stirring occasionally.
  3. Using an immersion blender (or food processor) blend the cucumber/potato mixture until it is perfectly smooth. Allow to cool on the stovetop for at least one hour.
  4. Once cool add the buttermilk, heavy cream, salt, and pepper and stir well. Cover and chill for several hours before serving. Garnish with snipped fresh chives and a dollop of Greek yogurt.

salmon with a bow-tie

This week not only marks the start of new school year but also a new soccer season. My husband coaches my sons team and has for the past few years, but this year he’s also going to be assisting on my daughter’s “Little Cleats” team. (Yeah I know, pray for him.) My boy has also recently decided to participate in a skateboard class through our rec department and the girl wants to take an Intro to Sports clinic. So between school activities, soccer practice and games, sports clinics and oh yeah homework— the next couple of months will be busy ones to say the least.

If you’re schedule sounds like mine then I’m sure pasta is part of your typical weekly menu. I like pasta just as much as the next girl but while the kids never tire of having it with simple red sauce and cheese, I grow weary of that combo pretty quickly. I do occasionally switch things up with pesto or garlic, butter and cheese, as a poor man’s carbonara or a quick mac n’ cheese. But not being one to ever rest on my “good enough” laurels, I’m always on the lookout for new recipe inspiration.

I’ve recently been thinking a lot about yogurt, specifically cooking with it. I like yogurt and we consume a pretty good amount of it in our house. The kids eat it for breakfast, I add it to my smoothies, swap it out for sour cream on tacos, add it to my blueberry muffins and I’ve even made yogurt from scratch (which was far easier and more rewarding than you would think!) But what about using it as a sauce for pasta? As I considered the idea a dish slowly formed in my mind. I’ve been on a sardine kick lately and while the combination of yogurt and sardines didn’t sound particularly appealing, salmon and yogurt did. And what goes perfectly with salmon but capers, lemon and fresh chives.

Voilà! An easy and fast pasta dinner for everyone and something more exotic than red sauce for me.

Farfalle with Salmon & Yogurt Sauce
I served this pasta dish warm, but I imagine it would totally work as a chilled salad as well.

salmon pasta6

3/4 lb. farfalle pasta
1 6 oz. can boneless/skinless wild salmon
3/4 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 tbsp. Spanish capers
3 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. fresh chives, snipped small
lemon zest, for garnish

  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. While it cooks break up the salmon and place it in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and gently mix.
  2. When the pasta is al dente, drain it extremely well and add it to the bowl. Gently fold the pasta into the yogurt sauce. Adjust the seasonings, garnish with lemon zest and more chives and serve.