Cucumber Soup from a ‘Culinary Landmark’

cucumber soup doneWhen I participated in the Vincent Price Treasury Cookalong with Silver Screen Suppers and many other bloggers in the fall, I had yet to pick up a copy of the 50th Edition of the Treasury of Great Recipes that Vincent Price co-authored with his wife, Mary. I’m circling back now because I just added the book to my shelf,despite its unwieldy, encyclopedic size. Not only does it present so-called gourmet recipes from 1960s, when the bon vivant Prices were gallivanting from restaurant to restaurant, it also contains menus that give a pithy overview of food trends from the era. I’ll be writing about recipes that I have tried in my next few posts.

It’s classic in many cultures to start a meal with soup. Given the season, I decided to try the Treasury’s Cold Cucumber Soup from Scandia restaurant in Los Angeles, open from 1957 to 1989. In its heyday, recalls a story in L.A. Magazine, the Scandinavian and French restaurant was a “culinary landmark” that consistently won awards. “The space seemed to float over the twinkling lights of Los Angeles,” the article said. The mid-century modern building was just torn down in 2015.

The Prices called the soup “delectable,” with “little touches that make for excellence.” This is fairly accurate, as long as you don’t expect a sweet Scandinavian fruit soup. I thought the texture turned out rich enough to omit cream; do as you like. I quite happily sipped the soup for lunch with dark bread, cheese, and cherries. Or if you’re feeling more ambitious (and hungry), serve as a first course with an entrée from the restaurant: Coquille Maison (scallop shells with baby lobster tails) or Kalvfilet Oskar (veal cutlets with crab legs).

Cold Cucumber Soup (1965)
Serves 6

cucumber in progress3 cucumbers
2 tablespoons butter
1 leek (white part only), sliced
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon flour
3 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cream
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh dill or mint
Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Peel [and slice] 2 cucumbers and saute gently in butter with the leek and bay leaf for 20 minutes until tender but not browned.
  2. Stir in the flour.
  3. Add the chicken stock and salt [perhaps unnecessary if you use salty chicken stock]. Simmer for 30 minutes. Put the mixture through a food mill or blend half at a time in an electric blender [I used an immersion blender in the pot]. Strain through a fine sieve. [I thought the soup was well pureed so I didn’t do this]. Chill.
  4. Add 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and grated, the cream, and the lemon juice.
  5. Stir in the dill or mint and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  6. Chill in the refrigerator for at least another 30 minutes so the soup will be icy cold when served. Serve in chilled cups with a dab of sour cream [I used a sprig of fresh dill] on top of each serving.
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About heritagerecipebox

I am named after my great-grandmother, who only prepared two dishes, according to anyone who remembers: hamburgers shaped like squares and peanut butter sandwiches. Fast forward 100 years and 500 miles north from my hometown of Richmond, Virginia to Boston, Massachusetts. Somehow, I ended up with a cooking gene as well as an interest in history and family stories. I have worked as a journalist and published three cookbooks plus a memoir. This blog gives me a chance to share family recipes and stories -- and other American recipes with a past. What do you have to share?
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