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Chilled Avocado Soup and Remembering Barbara Hansen

Yes, this is a recipe for a chilled avocado soup – but there is a also a rich story behind it.

Bowls of avocado soup in china with slices of bread on a plate.

Chilled Avocado Soup

The chilled avocado soup is perfect for a hot July day like today. It’s creamy and refreshing, not too heavy, with just the right amount of “kick.”

Where did it come from? That’s the better part of the story. This recipe comes by way of Barbara Hansen, a friend and food writer extraordinaire. Barbara passed away in January 2023, at the age of 90. She left behind an important legacy of food and restaurant writing – and a lifetime of friendships.

Remembering Barbara

It’s hard to sum up Barbara in just a few words, but in brief, Barbara was a pioneering journalist and intrepid traveler who was a longtime writer for the L.A. Times and its food section. A James Beard award-winning writer, she was an expert on California cuisine and Mexican cuisine, as well as Southeast Asian cuisine. In fact, she wrote cookbooks about all three.

She also encouraged a generation of new chefs, including celebrity chef Jet Tila and more recently, Sri Sambangi of the Banana Leaf restaurants in Los Angeles.

Oh, and she was an avid Instagram user. The L.A. Times called her “the most popular 90-year-old food influencer.”

Three women holding gift bags.

Left to right – Cathy Arkle of She Paused for Thought, Jeanne Fratello from Jolly Tomato, and Barbara Hansen at Melissa’s Produce for a food event, circa 2019. Photo courtesy of Gerry Furth-Sides.

I (Jeanne) got to know Barbara through our many meals at Melissa’s Produce and at restaurant events around the city. With our mutual friend Gerry Furth-Sides, we had enjoyed meals together at each new Banana Leaf restaurant as Sri continued to expand his footprint in Los Angeles.

A Meal in Barbara’s Honor

In June, a group of Barbara’s friends gathered together for a luncheon in her memory at Marino Ristorante in Los Angeles.

Row of friends pictured at Marino Ristorante.

Back row, left to right: Mario Marino, Cary Hunyh, Jane Hunziker, Barbara Fairchild, Kim Fay, Executive Chef Sal Marino, Jeanne Fratello. Front row: Nancy Zaslavsky, Bonnie Carroll, Judi Davidson, and Gerry Furth-Sides (photo via Marino Ristorante).

Marino, a longtime classic Hollywood eatery, had been a favorite restaurant of both Barbara and her friends.

For Barbara’s memorial luncheon, Gerry Furth-Sides worked with Mario and Salvatore Marino of Marino to design a menu of some of Barbara’s favorite foods. (And they served the entire meal on Barbara’s special china.) As a group, we shared memories of Barbara – from the many restaurants she savored, to the trips she had enjoyed with her food-loving friends.

Photo of Barbara Hansen and china on a table

One of the most spectacular tastes we enjoyed was a fresh English pea soup. Everything about it – from its bright green color to its spring-y flavor was unbelievably delicious. “Can I lick the bowl?” asked Barbara’s friend Judi jokingly. Instead, Sal brought out more soup and poured her a second serving.

Overhead view of pea soup in a china bowl with a spoon.

The fresh English pea soup at Marino Ristorante

Following the luncheon, we each received a most sentimental gift: the tiny saucer used for olive oil in Barbara’s china set. (I incorporated the piece of china into the photos of the soup.)

Cooking California Style

After the luncheon, I set out to make something from one of Barbara’s cookbooks. The bright green pea soup at Marino served as an inspiration as I thumbed through her recipes looking for something similar.

I spotted this chilled avocado soup in one of Barbara’s early cookbooks, called “Cooking California Style,” published in 1971. Now remember that 1971 was a time when “California cooking” still seemed somewhat exotic. And furthermore, some ingredients like avocados were not as well-known and widely available around the country they way they are now. So avocado soup was pretty cutting-edge for the time.

Cooking California Style cookbook on a table with bowls of pea soup and bread slices.

Barbara starts out the book with, “The typical Californian comes from anywhere in the world, and his cooking is equally diverse. Our culinary offerings extend far beyond the glorified hamburger and ever-burning barbecue that typify the California way of life to so many. The real California cuisine is eclectic, fascinating, and so varied that it is impossible to generalize about it.”

Well said, Barbara.

Chilled Avocado Soup

In the cookbook, this recipe is actually called “Guacamole Soup.” But since guacamole has such a different connotation now (think green and heavy), I thought I could more aptly describe it as Chilled Avocado soup. (I adapted the recipe with a few slight variations from the cookbook as noted below.)

Bowls of avocado soup in china with slices of bread on a plate.
5 from 2 votes

Chilled Avocado Soup

A delicious cold summer soup, adapted from Barbara Hansen's "Cooking California Style" cookbook.

Course Soup
Cuisine American
Keyword avocado, avocado soup, cold soup, summer soup
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 4
Author Barbara Hansen


  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup plain whole yogurt
  • 1 medium seeded and coarsely chopped jalapeno pepper
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 peeled and chopped white onion
  • 2 tbsp. fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 tsp. salt


  1. Blend or puree the avocado and lemon juice. Then add the milk and yogurt and blend again until creamy. Add the jalapeno, garlic, onion, and cilantro and continue blending. Then add the stock and puree until the mixture is an even consistency. Taste the soup first, then add the salt, adjusting to taste. Serve chilled.

The original recipe calls for 1/2 cup of half and half. I didn’t have half and half on hand, so I subbed 1/4 cup of (2 percent) milk, and 1/4 cup of yogurt. The soup came out nice and creamy, and a little bit tangy. But of course, you could also use the half and half instead.

Love and Saffron

Finally, a postscript: One of Barbara’s good friends, novelist Kim Fay, had the inspiration to write a novel with one of the main characters modeled after Barbara. Love & Saffron is a wonderful read, written as correspondence between two food lovers. There are also some bonus recipes from Barbara’s cookbooks in the back. It’s the perfect diversion for a hot summer day, maybe to enjoy with a bowl of chilled avocado soup.

Love & Saffron novel cover.

Image of Love & Saffron via Kim Fay Books.

And one final-final postscript: Sri Sambangi of Banana Leaf LA has a new restaurant in Redondo Beach. At the moment, the restaurant’s name is Beach Cities Social Kitchen & Bar (formerly Sisters Barn). The restaurant was inspired by Barbara’s “Cooking California Style” cookbook. Sambangi is in the process of developing and reworking menu items to feature California cuisine, Barbara-style… So stay tuned for more on that.

Thank you for the inspiration, Barbara, and Godspeed.

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4 Responses to Chilled Avocado Soup and Remembering Barbara Hansen

  1. Cathy Chong July 23, 2023 at 8:35 am #

    5 stars
    Wonderful recipe and wonderful story!

    • Jeanne July 24, 2023 at 2:39 pm #

      Thank you so much, Cathy! I’m so glad you like the story and recipe!

  2. Ruth Stroud July 27, 2023 at 9:26 pm #

    5 stars
    I just read this, Jeanne. It’s a terrific tribute! I never knew Barbara Hansen, but obviously I should have. I remember enjoying her recipes in The Times and perhaps clipping a few of them. Now I’d like to find one of her cookbooks—and I’ll definitely give that chilled avocado soup a try. Love & Saffron sounds like a great read too! Thanks for this remembrance.

    • Jeanne July 27, 2023 at 10:33 pm #

      Thank you so much, Ruth! Yes, there were so many fascinating pieces to her life… I’m sorry that I only got to know her for a short time. Let me know if you try the soup and/or read the book. Thanks for stopping by! : )

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