As we’re at the “high noon” point of the summer, the weather seems to dictate how we dress, what we do and even what we eat. New York has surely seen some wild weather this season, we’ve just survived our third (in a month) heat wave of almost 100 degrees weather, we’ve also seen what appeared to be a tornado, a torrential rain and a palm-sized hail, all in just one day, mind you.
And don’t you just feel that summer days suddenly stretch into a lot more than the usual 24 hours as you try to cram all possible activities and outings?! That leaves you with minimal cooking time at the end of the day.
As each morning begins, the city greets you with the hot and hazy sun over the East River, marking yet another day of humid weather, heat-radiating stone buildings and summer crowds around the usual tourist spots. And then the city bids you goodbye with the ever-present traffic jam that gives you a chance to sink in that cushioned bus seat and simply decompress, from work, from heat, and sometimes it feels like from life itself.
And even if you you’d rather be home already instead of daydreaming en route, at least you can always rely on a nice view
As dramatic and over the top as the city usually is, our last “cool-off” was a bit more than what we’ve bargained for. The day that started as the hottest yet this year, ended up with a bang, literary. The skies grew dark, like in the movie Independence Day, the very ominous clouds appeared and pierced the city with thunder and lightning bolts.
The wind grew in speed and its gusts made quite a wild dance with rain as it swirled and swept tons of water all over Manhattan.
Yep, we got cooled-off alright!
If you’re not up to such dramatic measures, I suggest you use a natural “cooling” agent. Buttermilk. Buttermilk or kefir, in addition to their usual benefits of normalizing the pH balance and populating the GI system with probiotics, are also natural anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory substances that act very similar to aloe gel. So next time you get some sun-burned and sensitive spots, try chilled buttermilk instead, you’ll feel the same cooling sensation as after-sun aloe gel produces.
Buttermilk and kefir are similar in taste (though kefir is usually more homogenious and “liquidy” where buttermilk may have more clumps and be thicker in texture). There is also a difference in their fermentation process. Kefir is made by introducing colonies of bacteria, yeast, proteins and sugars that resemble a cauliflower-life structure into a container of milk. And while in the past, buttermilk was generally made using liquid remaining after butter was churned from cream (thus the name, buttermilk), modern style beverage is produced by fermenting skim milk with lactic acid bacteria. Kefir and buttermilk also contain different strains of probiotics. Kefir may have up to 12 different strains of beneficial bacteria (due to multiple strains introduced during the fermentation process), but buttermilk only produces one strain of probiotic made by lactic acid. Both cultural beverages are more easily digested than regular milk, but kefir may be slightly more beneficial due to its multiple probiotic strains.
Kefir was historically widely used in Russian cuisine, it was a drink of choice to cool off during hot summer months and use it as a base for chilled kefir/buttermilk soups. The recipe below is a staple for a quick but tasty dish with minimal preparation for a busy weekday meal. You can use either kefir or buttermilk or even a combination of kefir and Greek style yogurt (which is what I used here), but the latter choice will require a slightly more water to make the base due to a thicker yogurt texture. And since I don’t eat dairy, I’m using coconut milk kefir and Greek yogurt by So Delicious Dairy Free, but you of course may choose regular dairy.
And I won’t force you to pronounce what the soup is called in Russian But for the brave ones, it’s called “okroshka”, which means “chopped schmorgesborg”. And it is indeed!
Chilled Buttermilk Soup
Cook time: 15 min Prep time: 15 min Makes 2 portions
- 1 cup of kefir/buttermilk or mixture of kefir/Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup of boiled (or bottled) water, cooled off
- 1 large potato, boiled, skin intact
- 1 medium cucumber
- 1-2 radishes (depending on size)
- 1/2 cup of kale (or any other greens)
- several stalks of chives (or scallions)
- 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
- lemon juice to taste
- seasoned salt and pepper
- bacon bits or cooked bacon (optional, but not in my house )
Boil potato earlier in a day or even the day before, do not cut it and leave the skin intact (that will prevent it from absorbing extra moisture), cool off before peeling and cutting it, then dice it in small cubes.
Dice the cucumber in small cubes also, I suggest peeling the skin off too.
Cut the radishes in quarters and slice very thinly.
Chop the kale and chives.
Mix everything together. The veggie base can be made in advance, as lunch, for example. But I do not recommend mixing the soup base until the actual time you want to eat it as after a while, liquids will separate that will change the taste (and appearance). It is easy enough, however, to make it fresh on a spot.
To make the soup base, mix together kefir/buttermilk and water, add lemon juice (how much will depend how sour the buttermilk is), then blend in mustard and season with salt/spices and pepper.
Add the veggie base to the soup mixture, garnish with bacon bits (or skip it for a vegan version).
Variations of the “add-ins” include any kind of greens, fresh herbs, chopped onions, Portobello mushrooms, hard-boiled egg, any cold meats/meat substitutes, crumbled sausage – you make your own combo
And don’t you just love your very own “vitamin bottle” in a bowl! A nice mix of healthy probiotics and antioxidants. Serve alongside any sandwich or eat it like that, I like it with smoked salmon on a crispy bread. I don’t know what you think of this, but we here call it dinner!
Where food and thoughts are born!