The great thing about summertime is the plethora of squash that grows with vigor, adorning tables all over the world as chefs and home cooks create hot and cold flavor combinations celebrating the bounty of the squash harvest.
When I was in Italy I saw some of the most beautiful trumpet squash, huge zucchini with the flowers still attached surrounded by piles of yellow and green patty pan squash and jumbo white summer squash. It was a feast for the eyes, and with every taste we had, for the stomach as well.
We were having some friends over for dinner last weekend and I had a huge bunch of zucchini in the fridge. We were going out of town the following day so I knew I needed to create something that would utilize all the beautiful squash, but wanted to do something a little more flavorful than just sauteing it or shaving it into a salad. Soup it was….and the beauty of this one is that it can be served hot or cold (though we did it hot.) The addition of a huge bunch of herbs, some left over baby spinach and a few banana peppers from our garden added depth, heat and gorgeous color to this fresh and flavorful soup. Take your time with it was well. We let the veggies simmer together as long as you can before adding the herbs. The more time the flavors have to meld together the more flavorful your soup will be.
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
7 whole zucchini, roughly chop 6 and leave 1 whole
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 banana peppers, stems and seeds removed, roughly chopped or 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 cup baby spinach
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh sage, chopped
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup white wine
juice and zest of 1 lemon
4 cups vegetable stock or water
1 cup cream, half and half or fat free half & half
Add the oil to a large Dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat. Add the onions, peppers, carrots and chopped zucchini and cook over medium heat, stirring every few minutes until very, very soft. Add a bit of stock if needed, only a few tablespoons as the flavors will really meld the best when cooked without a lot of liquid. After about 10 minutes add the garlic and season with salt and pepper (about a teaspoon of each to start) then continue cooking, stirring often, for another 10-15 minutes. Add the wine and lemon and continue to cook until most of the liquid has cooked out. Add the stock and bring to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile use a vegetable peeler to shave long strips of zucchini from the remaining squash. Add water and a teaspoon of salt to a small separate sauce pot and bring to a boil. Drop the zucchini strips into the water and blanch for 4-5 minutes, until bright green and just cooked through. Drain the water and place the strips into a bowl and into the refrigerator until ready to serve, to preserve the bright green color.
Add the spinach and herbs to the soup and simmer for another 10 minutes. Using an immersion blender or a food processor blend the soup until very smooth. Remove the zucchini strips from the fridge and let them come to room temperature. Bring back up to a low simmer and simmer until 5 minutes before serving. When almost ready to serve add the cream, whisking in to fully incorporate. Adjust any final seasonings.
To plate, scoop two ladles of soup into the bottom of a bowl. Carefully lay a few strips of the blanched zucchini on top and add a dash of chopped parsley or basil for garnish. Serve warm, but is also delicious served cold the next day.