Many years ago my aunt gave me the Sunset Complete Vegetarian Cookbook, which contained a recipe for Finnish Summer Soup. It was an easy-to-make concoction that contained potatoes, onions, carrots, and green beans swimming in a creamy broth. Later on I learned this was known in Finland as kesäkeitto (don't ask me how you pronounce that) and the Finns use more vegetables than the humble Sunset recipe did. This soup has been one of my favorite summer standbys for many years, and the Sunset cookbook recipe has evolved a bit under my influence.
Much of the seasoning in this soup comes from the addition of white pepper, which is less pungent but more earthy and tangy than black pepper. The addition of white pepper also preserves the white color of the soup broth.
Kesäkeitto (Finnish Summer Soup)
2 cups water
6 small potatoes, peeled and halved (you can use any potato here - I prefer red-skinned, Yukon Golds, or Fingerlings)
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground white pepper
2 tbsp. butter or margarine
6 to 8 small boiling onions
3 carrots, cut into bite-size rounds
3/4 lb. fresh green beans, cut into bite-size pieces about half an inch long
2 cups frozen green peas
1 cup cauliflower, cut into bite-size pieces
1 pint (2 cups) half and half
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
Optional garnishes: chopped fresh parsley, chopped fresh dill, or thinly sliced radish
Optional vegetables to substitute, if you desire:
Spring onions, cut in bite-size pieces
1 leek, cut into thick bite-sized rounds
1 parsnip, cut into thick bite-sized rounds
Add the water to a large soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Add the potatoes, and replace lid. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, butter, onions, carrots, green beans, cauliflower, and any other vegetables you are planning to add. (Since the peas are delicate, these are added last.) Simmer for 8 more minutes. Add the peas and cook for a minute or two. Sprinkle the flour on the vegetables and stir; add the cream and stir to mix. Simmer until the cream thickens, about 5 minutes.
Serve in bowls with a sprinkling of parsley, dill, or sliced radishes. I like to pair this with some herring salad or open-faced sandwiches made on dark rye bread with cream cheese and various toppings such as hard boiled egg, onion, pickled beets, cucumbers, and cold cooked shrimp with capers.
As they say in Finland, "hyvää ruokahalua!" (Good appetite!)
(Image: Kathryn Hill)