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A Green Gazpacho: Chilled Cucumber Soup With Yogurt and Fresh Mint

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If you've ever grown cucumbers, you know that by midsummer (right about now!) your plants have produced enough to feed your entire neighborhood. And if you don't have a bit of garden to watch these miraculous vines grow, you'll at least notice the stall of every vegetable grower at your farmers' market overflowing with many varieties of cucumbers.

Most gardeners and cooks want to know: what to do with all these cukes?! Once you've made your favorite salad or special relish a dozen times over, there's still a way to enjoy this humble vegetable: a chilled soup!

What I love most about cucumbers is their crunchiness and their delicate, fresh flavor. That's exactly what I tried to highlight when creating this recipe. Served very chilled, the soup is not only light, but extraordinarily refreshing -- a perfect hors d'oeuvre or first course for a summer menu.

For a bit of fun, I like to serve this soup in stemless martini glasses (it's easy to sip and won't fill anyone up before dinner). For a gorgeous presentation, I garnished the glasses with yellow tomato cubes and a drizzle of lemon-infused oil.

And just like that, the humble cucumber is transformed into a green gazpacho every bit as exciting and delicious as its big sister!

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Chilled Cucumber Soup with Yogurt and Fresh Mint

serves 4 as an appetizer or 12 as an hors d'oeuvre
active time: 20 min

For the soup
1 3/4 lbs (795 g) seedless cucumbers - peeled and cut in 3" pieces (or 2 lbs (905 g) regular cucumber peeled, seeded and cut in 3″ pieces)
1/4 medium red onion - skinned
1 garlic clove - skinned
1 jalapeño - stem removed, halved and seeded
8 large mint leaves
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 - 6 oz (170 g) non-fat plain yogurt
1/2 to 3/4 cup spring water to taste

For the garnishes
lemon oil
1 medium yellow tomato - seeded and cut in 1/8" cubes (or 8 yellow grape tomatoes quartered)
tiny mint leaves

Step 1: Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor with 1/2 cup of the spring water. Pulse a few times so the ingredients are coarsely chopped, then process until soup is very smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes. If necessary, thin with the remaining water to the desired consistency.

Step 2: Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight, until well chilled. Place the soup in the freezer for 30 minutes before serving.

Step 3: Ladle soup into chilled soup bowls or cocktail glasses. Drizzle a little lemon oil in the center of each bowl. Garnish with a few tomato cubes, a mint leaf and serve immediately.

Cook's note: The soup can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.