Little Sister got busy in her Manhattan kitchen this weekend making a pot of her favorite soup. She's been making it since college and has, on occasion, been known to whip up a batch for me. Rich, though not bad for you (thanks to a smart fat-free substitution) it does indeed banish the winter doldrums. I may make some this week if the nasty March rains keep up.
Depressed by New York’s thick drizzle and grey skies, I decided to cook up one of my longstanding favorites, cream of zucchini soup. I am a huge zucchini fan, especially when I can buy it from the Greenmarket at Union Square where I like to spend lazy Saturday afternoons enjoying the fresh, often organic offerings from farms across New York. No winter visit is complete without a cup of steaming hot cider and a slice of banana bread.
And so, needing a pick me up this past Saturday, I donned my cherry-printed apron and entered the kitchen, freshly purchased zucchini in hand.
I should note that we have an ongoing competition with the woman in the apartment across the fire escape from us, who is always in the kitchen cooking. Her commitment, while impressive, is – what’s the word? - annoying, so whenever I am in the kitchen I try to show off to the best of my ability just in case she happens to be spying on us (though certainly we never spy on her!). I feel particularly superior when I make everything from scratch.
Having armed myself with an inspirational glass of wine, something I recommend as the first step to every recipe, I began to chop away, enjoying the scent of lemony parsley and pungent garlic and the feel of the silky smooth slices of zucchini. There is something really satisfying about standing over a huge boiling pot of veggies as the steam rises up into the air and fills the kitchen with earthy aromas. My favorite part of making this soup is my newfound love, the immersion blender; I use it to puree the soup to a creamy mint green. (Unfortunately I got a little carried away this time, and the loud and protracted whirring interrupted K. at a crucial moment of her “can’t miss” TV drama Macleod's Daughters.)
Cream of Zucchini Soup with Parmesan Crisps
Yield: 6-8 servings
Originally a Weight Watchers recipe (believe it or not!) this soup is great hot or cold and lasts well in the fridge up to one week. It can also be frozen for up to 3 months. It doesn't take long to make once all the ingredients are chopped, and I like to serve it up with either a slice of cheese toast on pumpernickel bread in the winter, or with fresh boiled shrimp and a squirt of lime in the summer.
1 TBSP olive oil
1 onion (white or Vidalia), chopped
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
4 cups boiling water
1 chicken bouillon cube
7 medium zucchinis, chopped
½ cup fresh basil, chopped
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
15 oz. fat free evaporated milk
1 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
1. In a large pot, heat oil and sauté onion and garlic until golden, about 7 minutes. Add water, chicken bouillon cube, zucchini, basil, and parsley and bring to a boil. Let simmer 10 minutes, or until veggies are soft. Stir in evaporated milk, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. Use immersion blender to puree. (Giggle like a maniac and shout "wheee!" as it does its job.) Heat another 10-15 minutes, uncovered, to let thicken.
2. Meanwhile, make Parmesan crisps: Preheat oven to 350. Place silver dollar-sized clumps of cheese on cookie sheet. Bake until melted and pliable, about 5 minutes. Remove and let cool, then use to garnish soup.