These two cucumber soups are updated versions of cold borscht soup, originally brought to the United States by Eastern European Jewish immigrants. The dish became so synonymous with Jews that the customary vacation area of New York Jewry--the Catskills--became known as the Borscht Belt.

The traditional cold borscht soup is most frequently made with beets. Yet the dish can also be made of a yeasty drink called kvass, with yogurt and tomatoes, or with cabbage. Incredibly easy to make, these soups are perfect for a quick summer dinner or to start off a Shabbat lunch. Using a homemade fresh salsa as a garnish will add a spark of color and contrasting texture.

Cucumber-Parsley Soup

This recipe requires a bit of cooking. Use olive oil instead of butter and eliminate the sour cream or yogurt if you want a non-dairy soup.

This recipe will serve 4-6 people, but can easily be doubled for a crowd.

2 medium or 4 small cucumbers, unpeeled (best to use organic or English cucumbers)

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil

2 shallots or 1 small onion, minced (shallots will provide a sweeter flavor)

4 cups vegetable stock or water

1 tablespoon chopped parsley or other herbs (you can use dill, basil, or tarragon)

Optional: 1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy or sour cream or plain yogurt

1) Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Chop the cucumbers coarsely and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt. Set them in a colander with a plate or bowl underneath and let drain. The salt helps to remove additional liquid from the cucumbers. Discard the seeds.

2) Place the butter or oil in a saucepan and heat to medium. Add the shallots or onion, turning the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the water or stock and herbs.

3) Rinse the cucumbers quickly and add them to the soup. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and let stand for about 10 minutes to cool slightly. Puree in a blender or food mill. Be careful with the hot liquid in the blender. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

4) Chill.

5) When you're ready to eat, taste and adjust seasoning again, and add yogurt or sour cream if desired. (The soup in the photo is without any sour cream or yogurt.) Garnish with salsa (recipe below) and serve.

Cucumber-Avocado Yogurt Soup

This recipe will serve 4-6 people, but can easily be doubled for a crowd.

2 medium or 4 small cucumbers (best to use organic or English cucumbers)

1/2 avocado, ripe (it would also be fine to use a whole avocado, if you really love avocados)

1 8-oz container plain low-fat or non-fat yogurt

1 tablespoon lime juice

Soy or skim milk, or water, to thin soup if necessary

Salt and pepper to taste

1) Peel cucumber and scoop out seeds with a spoon. Chop coarsely and add to blender.

2) Remove pit and scoop out avocado flesh and add to blender with cucumber. Add yogurt, lime juice, salt, and pepper and blend until smooth, about 1 minute. If soup is too thick, add milk or water in small increments to thin soup to desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings.

3) Refrigerate until ready to serve. Garnish with salsa.

Salsa Garnish for Either Soup

This is a great garnish for soups, or even to eat with chips alone.

1/4 cup chopped bell peppers (various colors)

1/4 cup diced tomatoes, seeds removed

1 tablespoon diced red or sweet onion or sliced scallions (green and white parts)

1/4 cup diced unpeeled cucumbers, seeds removed

1 tablespoon chopped jalapeno peppers, seeds removed (keep some seeds if you want it spicy)

Splash lime or lemon juice

Splash olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a bowl, taste, and adjust seasonings. Refrigerate until ready to serve, and garnish soup with salsa. Serve any extra salsa with chips or bread.

Elisheva Margulies

Elisheva Margulies is a natural foods chef and holistic health counselor based in St. Louis, MO. She owns Eat with Eli and offers personal chef services, catering, cooking classes and nutrition counseling to the community. Eli is also involved with Hazon and works actively within her Jewish community to help people eat more health-supportive food and to kick the margarine addiction. Please visit www.eatwitheli.com.