You hear cucumber-yogurt soup, and you might think of slim-waisted, still-hungry women sipping delicate spoonfuls. Diana Henry's version in A Change of Appetite is less 'ladies who lunch' and more Elaine Stritch singing "Ladies Who Lunch:" ballsy, dynamic, and unexpectedly complex. Really, the cucumbers and summer herbs are the only light things about this soup. Bread, walnuts, yogurt, and lavish olive oil give it tremendous body, while no small amount of garlic and scallions adds punch. She uses strong, rich chicken stock to up the flavor even more, and finishes with some acidity from lemon juice and white balsamic. A small bowlful is all I could eat at a sitting, not because I aspire to small-waistedness myself, but because that sh*t is intense!
Why I picked this recipe: It's hot (you may have noticed), and a no-cook, chilled soup sounds perfect pretty much all the time.
What worked: Once you get your ingredients ready, the soup is a cinch to make—just throw everything into the blender. I love all the vibrancy of flavor, and it lends itself well to personalization: change the herbs, the nuts, the garnish, or swap out the chicken broth and go vegetarian.
What didn't: My garlic was particularly strong, so 4 cloves were too much. I also wanted to eat a huge bowl as my dinner main, but it was just so rich! And the rose petal garnish is very beautiful, but unless you absolutely trust that your neighbors' roses are pesticide-free, they may be hard to find. (Okay, I have to mention, the measurement of the bread drives me a little batty—1 3/4 slices? It assumes a standard-sized bread slice to an accuracy that is not realistic. Am I being too neurotic?)
Suggested tweaks: I'd start with 2 cloves of garlic and add more as you see fit. Similarly, to lighten it up, I suggest using less olive oil and adding more to taste, and/or using low-fat yogurt instead of full-fat. As for those romantic rose petals, if you can't find them, skip them, and stare dreamily into the distance thinking of what your soup could have looked like as you slurp away.