Cold Soup From the Night Kitchen + Recipes

By Ali Berlow


I’m cooking late after sunset, in the dark - chopping onions that cast tiny shadows on the cutting board. I’m making soups – cold soups that’ll be ready for the next day. 

It’s only in the night kitchen that I can bear to fire up the burners and my thoughts aren’t dull from the swamp-heat of summer. Outside the air hangs heavy like a sticky fever and smells faintly of citron, metal, lighter fluid (magnolia) and skunk. It doesn’t budge or breathe. The dishwasher hums full of the artifacts from the day’s consumption, including the washable parts of a lemonade stand. And from down Main Street I hear the fishtailing screech of a car’s brakes – and hold my knife midair readying for the next sound - the crash - the finale, but it doesn’t happen. I find myself sweating. It’s a different kind of sweat in front of the stove’s blue flames than from the glaring heat of the sun. Tonight I feel like I’m in a fragile cocoon, just barely shielded from the dark-purple belly of a summer night.

But there’s comfort in this bout of night cooking – getting the work done ahead of time and knowing that these cold soups, inspired from faraway places like North Africa and Turkey will help clear my head and scratchy throat the next day.

The first one’s flavor is intricate and complex - peppery-hot, mixed with sweet smoke and tang. The base is onions, cooked dry and speckled with fragrant cumin, cinnamon, paprika and ginger. Then I add tomatoes, chicken stock and a couple spoonfuls of solid honey to melt in. It’s brought to a fast boil after I add cilantro and parsley and then taken off the heat just as quickly to start cooling down. This seems to scald and keep in the flavors without diluting or boiling them away. Tomorrow, when it’s thoroughly chilled, the honey laces the soup with sweetness like a golden thread in an embroidered pillow.

Then I make a Turkish soup called Cacik (JAH-Jik) because I can’t take the stove’s heat anymore and this only requires a food processor. In Turkey they often begin a meal with a broth or a light soup like this to stimulate the appetite. Cacik is pure and bracing and served ice-cold in small bowls – so you can just drink it.

Plain yogurt or kefir (a creamy drink made from fermented cow’s milk) is added to cucumber, garlic and vinegar and then blended together. The billowing white liquid pulsates and spins like a whirling dervish. It’s finished with flecks of green dill and fresh mint. The whole thing is over and done with quickly.

When I make the last soup the moon is full and high but thunder rolls across it anyway. I’m nearing the end of my energy. This soup is a puree of fresh tomatoes and yogurt blended with curry powder, olive oil and lemon juice. At first taste it’s at once tart but then finishes long with the heat of chilies, cardamom and black pepper. Its color is pleasing - opaque pink, like a moon shell.

I leave some of the dishes for the morning, since tomorrow’s an easy day – the cooking’s done and the soups are cooling in the fridge. It doesn’t matter whether dinner ends up being family, or if visitors come by - it’s cold, ready and soothing - a restorative soup tasting, with greens on the side and maybe a filet from a fisherman-friend’s catch. I take a quick shower to rinse off – and fall asleep to the unwavering sound of the foghorn.

Broadcast on August 20, 2003


Moroccan-Inspired Cold Tomato Soup

Adapted from Gourmet, June 2003

Makes 4 servings or about 5 cups.



1 small onion, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon hot paprika

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin 

Scant 1/4teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 (26 oz) can whole tomatoes in juice

1 3/4 cups chicken stock 

2 teaspoons honey

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste

Garnish: lemon slices, cilantro



Cook onion in oil with all the spices in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened and begins to brown, 4 to 5 minutes. 

Coarsely chop tomatoes and add to onion mixture with reserved juices, stock, honey, parsley, and cilantro, then bring to a boil. 

At this point – you can either take it off the heat to cool down and store in the refrigerator. Or - if you’re in a hurry then transfer soup to a metal bowl set in a larger bowl of ice and cold water. Cool soup, stirring occasionally, until cold, 15 to 20 minutes. 

Before serving, stir in lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste and garnish with lemon slice and cilantro.


Soguk Domates Çorbasi

This recipe and the Cacik recipe are adapted from Pat Solley. She sights her resources as: Neset Eren's The Art of Turkish Cooking; Alice Geer Kelsey's Once the Hodja; Irfan Orga's Turkish Cooking; Claudia Roden's A Book of Middle Eastern Food

Serves 6



3 cups of tomatoes (preferably fresh, but canned are fine)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 

2 tablespoons white vinegar 

1-2 teaspoons curry powder 

pinch of salt 

1 cup plain yogurt

Garnish: minced parsley 



Puree tomatoes in a food processor until liquefied. Add oil, lemon juice, vinegar, curry powder, and salt. Add yogurt and blend until mixed well.

Chill for at least 2 hours. When ready to serve, ladle into small bowls and garnish with minced parsley. 


Cacik (JAH-jik)

For 4-6 people 



1 large cucumber, peeled and chopped

1 clove of garlic, minced 

1 tablespoon white vinegar

2 cups plain yogurt 

1/4 teaspoon salt 

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons dill, chopped 

2 tablespoons mint, chopped 



In a food processor, puree cucumber and garlic, pulsing until liquefied. 

Add in the dill, mint, salt, water, oil, and yogurt and mix well. 

Refrigerate until ice cold. To ready to serve, ladle into very small, cold bowls.


RecipeAli Berlow