Gooseberries: old ones out, new ones (almost) in

I used to treat gooseberries like other people treat a fine tablecloth or china – they don’t get taken out unless for special occasions. So all spring, I held onto the last bag of frozen gooseberries from last year: large light green, plump Invictas, perfect for cake or pie. But with the branches of my three gooseberries bushes loaded with fruit, which will ripen in late June/early July, all my restraint disappeared and I felt emboldened to roll it out. However, not for a cake but for chilled gooseberry soup.

Fruit soups are one of my favorite summer dishes. To give them more substance, I like them best with a little addition, like my Elderberry Soup with Farina Dumplings. For the gooseberry soup I wanted something lighter. I took my cues from floating islands and added bit of crunch by sprinkling them with toasted caramelized almonds. The soup should be eaten thoroughly chilled.

Many gooseberry recipes call for under-ripe gooseberries but for this soup they should be as sweet as possible, otherwise you will have to add much more sugar. As the gooseberries are put through a food mill, you can save yourself the effort to remove the tiny blossom ends and, if still attached, the stems, both of which are a bother in most gooseberry dishes. Please resist the temptation to puree the soup in the blender, as the crushed seeds will give the soup a coarse consistency and a slightly bitter taste.

Gooseberry Soup with Floating Islands and Almond Crunch

Soup:

1 pound 10 ounces ripe gooseberries

2 cups water

½ cup to ¾ cup sugar, to taste

Peel of ½ organic lemon

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 thumbnail-size piece of ginger, peeled and chopped

3 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) cornstarch

Floating islands:

2 egg whites

Pinch of salt

Pinch of cream of tartar

A few drops of almond extract

2 ounces superfine sugar

Almond crunch:

1/3 cup unpeeled whole almonds

1 tablespoon sugar

1. For the soup, please all the ingredients except the cornstarch in a large heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook until the gooseberries soften and pop, stirring occasionally. You may also crush them with the cooking spoon to fasten the process.

2. Pass the soup through the food mill (medium or fine disk). Pour the soup back into the pan.

3. Dissolve the cornstarch in a few tablespoons of cold water. Whisk it into the soup and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Cook until the soup turns clear again and thickens. Remove from the heat and cool, then chill.

4. For the floating islands, beat the egg whites with the salt and the cream of tartar until they are very stiff, gradually adding the superfine sugar.

5.Bring water to a boil in a very large deep pan or a wide pot. The floating islands should not touch each other when they poach so you might have to do this in two batches.

6. Reduce the water to a simmer. Using two dessertspoons, place small mounds of egg whites on the water. Poach for 3 minutes, then turn them over and poach for another 3 minutes on the other side. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a large plate or tray lined with wax paper. Refrigerate.

7. For the almond crunch, lightly toast the almonds in a pan. Add the sugar and caramelize, making sure not to burn it. Remove from the pan and let tool. Chop the almonds in the food processor using the pulse function.

8. To serve, whisk the chilled soup well. Place the chilled floating islands on top and sprinkle with almond crunch.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

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