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Cold Avocado Soup

It's hard to even think about cooking when temperatures soar into the 90s (I know some of you are enduring even hotter weather, and you have my deepest sympathies). When these days hit, all I can focus on is a big, ice cold glass of coconut water and perhaps a bag of frozen peas tied to the back of my neck with a dishrag.

But, hot weather or no, most of us still have to deal with the reality of feeding ourselves, and I can only eat ice cream as a meal replacement once in a blue moon. Thankfully, there are tons of options if you can harness your creativity.

Cooking without heat is a great challenge, and I enjoy the opportunity summer gives me to exercise another part of my culinary brain. There are so many things you can make (and I'm not talking about a month of salads, although salad is never a bad idea) that don't require a stovetop or oven.

A good place to start is in familiar territory--soups. Cold soups are marvelous things to make during the summer not only because they offer cool relief from the heat, but also because they're a snap to put together, and with produce at its peak you really don't need to do much to vegetables and fruits to make them absolutely delicious. The produce has already done the hard work for you. All you have to do is stay out of the way and let those flavors shine.

Cold soups can range from the well-known gazpacho to fruit soups to vichyssoise. But you can start to get more creative once you're comfortable with the concept. One of our favorite summertime soups is Cold Avocado Soup.

Really, there couldn't be an easier soup to make, and the ratio of flavor to effort is very, very high, meaning you can get back to airing yourself out in front of a box fan pronto. 

Other articles you might enjoy: Easiest Guacamole, Becker Blender Gazpacho, Building A Better Pantry: Crème Fraîche and Buttermilk

Cold Avocado Soup
Makes about 4 cups

Note: This is a fairly rich, thick soup, so you may want to dilute it with more buttermilk or milk to taste. I like to add a whole serrano pepper to the soup instead of ground red pepper for a bit more heat, but if you prefer a milder soup, feel free to follow your instincts.

Puree in a food processor until smooth:
           2 ripe Hass avocados (about 1 pound)
           1 small garlic clove, minced
Add and process to blend:
           2 cups buttermilk
           4 teaspoons fresh lime juice
           1/4 teaspoon salt
           Pinch of ground red pepper
Remove to a bowl and refrigerate until cold. Thin if necessary with:
           1/4 to 1/2 cup buttermilk, cream, or milk 
Taste and adjust the seasonings. Ladle the soup into chilled bowls and garnish with any of the following:
           2 tablespoons sour cream or plain yogurt
           8 ounces lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage
           Thin slices of lime


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Add to a pint-sized Mason jar:
           3/4 cup of your favorite, flavorful extra-virgin olive oil
            1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice...