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Many restauranteurs seem to believe that cold summer soups are designed to pique the appetite rather than satisfy it. I believe a good cold soup serves the same function as a hearty hot one: to soothe the soul, calm the body and take the edge off ravenous hunger.
I didn't realize this was my philosophy until last August. After driving home from Canada for 10 grueling hours, my boyfriend and I limped into our favorite neighborhood restaurant: the 12th Street Bar and Grill in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The specials board listed a cucumber gazpacho that we decided to try. We ordered only one serving, and soon our spoons were in a duel trying to get more than their share. We settled the battle by ordering two more bowls. As my belly filled, I felt the knots in my back relax. Steve sighed happily.
"It's cilantro," he said. "That's what makes this so wonderful."
I called the chef, Paul Vicino, the next day for the recipe, half expecting to be told haughtily that chefs don't reveal their secrets. Instead he gave me the recipe and confirmed Steve's suspicion, saying that he had become a cilantro addict while working at a French-Moroccan restaurant. He is a soup master, and when I shared my theory about the hearty summer soup with him he readily agreed by asking, "Who wants to drink soup out of a demitasse cup?"