Soup Up Your Summer Evenings  

I love summer. There's something special about it. Some of my fondest memories are centered around cooking and dining outside in the summer. If you've never done it, please by all means give it a try. A backyard deck, a screened-in porch, and even an apartment balcony can be festive and romantic. And, then there's a picnic in the park. Everyone loves a picnic. Eating outdoors is a great way to enjoy the warm weather.

I eat outside every chance I get. I bring out a vase of flowers (a permanent furnishing in my house), placemats, the flatware and the plates and of course a glass for my beverage. None of that paper or plastic stuff that I associate with fast food goes on my table. Once you get into a routine, you'll realize that it's just as easy to set a table on the porch as inside the house.

Ok, so you're going outside. What do you serve?

There's something about the warm weather that makes people want to eat just a little bit lighter. Cold fruit and vegetable soups make an excellent first course. Follow it with a grilled piece of meat and a salad. It'll be paradise on the porch.

I frequently choose to serve cold soups. When the weather is warmer, they set such a perfect tone: cool, soothing, and full of flavors. It's the same principle as hot soup making you comfortable in the winter. Let the variety and abundance of fruits and vegetables available in the summer inspire new creativity in you. They're made ahead of time and can go straight to the table. No last minute heating or cooking - simple as can be. 

Take a look through your cookbooks. You'll be pleasantly surprised by how many recipes you'll find. One of the most wonderful cookbooks in my collection is Bernard Clayton, Jr.'s
The Complete Book of Soups and Stews, published by Simon and Schuster. He devotes an entire chapter to fruit soups. It has 16 recipes. The Vegetables chapter has 98 recipes - everything from artichoke to zucchini. There are seven different recipes for tomato soup alone.