Thursday, June 9, 2011

Creamy Zucchini Soup with Mixed Herbs

If you've got a bumper crop of zucchini, try this soup.  One batch calls for 9 cups of zucchini, which ought to help clear up some of your supply.  It's also a great way to take advantage of fresh herbs from your garden or farmers' market.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1 and 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 9 cups (1-inch thick) sliced zucchini
  • 5 cups low-sodium broth*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 16 (1/4-inch thick) slices French bread baguette
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 halved garlic clove
  • 3/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 3 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1. Heat 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and minced garlic cloves; saute for 5 minutes.  Add the zucchini, broth, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes - the zucchini should be very tender by the end.

2. Let stand for 5 minutes, then transfer half of the zucchini mixture to a blender.  Process until smooth.  Pour the pureed zucchini mixture into a large bowl.  Repeat with the remaining half of the zucchini mixture.

Note: since the zucchini mixture will still be quite hot, remove the center portion of your blender's lid, and cover over with a paper towel or dishtowel.  This way, steam will be able to escape, and you'll avoid a messy explosion in your kitchen.

3. Transfer the soup back to the pan, and cook over low heat for 5 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, prepare the croutons: place the bread slices in a single layer on a baking sheet, and coat with cooking spray.  Bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes, until toasted.  Rub the cut sides of the halved garlic clove over the toast slices.

5. Place the flat-leaf parsley, tarragon, and chives in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, stir together the remaining 1 and 1/2 teaspoons olive oil, lemon juice, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.  Pour over the parsley mixture and toss to combine.  Divide the parsley mixture evenly among the toast slices (about 1 fingerful per toast slice).

6. Ladle 1 cup of soup into each of 8 bowls.  Top each serving with two of the topped toast slices.  This soup is best served immediately, or the croutons will get soggy.  However, if you want to prepare it ahead of time (or even brown bag it for lunch at work) just pack the croutons separately.

Serve with a simple tomato salad, and you'll get to enjoy even more summer produce.  Simply combine 6 cups chopped tomato, 3/4 cup peeled and chopped avocado, 1/3 cup chopped red onion, 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, 2 tablespoons capers, and 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice in a bowl, and toss gently to combine.  Add fresh fruit - cubed melon or sliced peaches, for example - to round out the meal. 

*A note on what kind of broth to use.  The original recipe called for chicken broth, and there are several vegan versions on the market (namely Imagine and Edward & Sons).  Generally, I like these broths in vegetable soups, but I don't know of a vegan chicken broth that is also low in sodium. Because I wanted to keep down the overall sodium content, I opted for low-sodium vegetable broth.  If you decide to use vegan chicken broth, I recommend cutting out the added salt.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1 cup soup, 2 topped toast slices), Calories 125

Tasting Notes:
Rather disappointingly, I found the soup itself to be a little bland - and yet way too peppery.  Next time I would decrease the amount of pepper by half.  I also think the soup could have benefited from a splash of lemon juice or a swirl of vegan sour cream or creamer to brighten it up.  The croutons, on the other hand, were to die for - especially the fresh tarragon, which was just a burst of flavor.  So a "3" for the soup, but extra points awarded for such great croutons.


Vegan Extra:
If you're looking for some more ideas for fresh chives, here are some of my favorites.

Prepare a store-bought dip from a mix (such as Simply Organic), and sprinkle fresh chives on top just before serving with cut veggies.

Sprinkle fresh chives on or inside a Daiya mozzarella quesadilla.

Top baked potatoes with Tofutti sour cream and snipped fresh chives.

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