By SHANNON WATKINS
Lately I’ve been craving vegetables above all else, even cupcakes, which frankly makes me wonder if I’m not being stealthily taken over by aliens with mind-control abilities. I like veggies as much as the next person, but how many people consistently choose kale over frosting?
But green things are making themselves known with the blossoming of spring, which is enough to make the most die-hard nacho scarfer consider something fresh and dewy and unspoiled by preservatives.
I readily admit that I like zucchini and would like it even more if I knew what to do with it; my primary exposure to it growing up was my grandmother’s excellent zucchini bread. Sliced thin and made into dainty sandwiches with chopped pecans stirred into sweetened cream cheese as a filling, it was the hit of the coffee fellowship hour at the Methodist church we belonged to.
Ratatouille is certainly a known and wise response to the urge for more zucchini, but I really just wanted something emphatically zucchini-ish and nothing more, no eggplants or tomatoes to steal the show.
Then I went to the internet, where you can find anything you’d want (and several things you wouldn’t) and hunted up a good recipe for zucchini soup. And of course garlic got involved, because garlic always gets involved, but I can’t say I felt it was a bad idea, because as noted last week, garlic makes almost everything better.
In order to make this, you can use roast garlic as outlined last week and even chicken stock from the week before, although this is the part where I have to confess that while I’m a dreadful snob about making my own chicken stock I have no problem grabbing a carton of prefab vegetable stock off the grocery store shelves as long as it’s unsalted. I’m pretty sure that’s that kind of hypocrisy that will keep me from ever winning a James Beard Award for excellence in food writing, but oh, well.
If you’re going the route of storebought vegetable stock, by the way, I recommend Kitchen Basics brand, which is very flavorful and low in sodium. It will also tint your soup a rusty color due to the presence of, yes, tomatoes, along with red peppers, but in my opinion these add just a little savor that still doesn’t push us into ratatouille terrain. Find a vegetable stock without these additions if you’d rather have a pale green soup.
Also I note with some pleasure that if you cook the garlic correctly, it’s almost as sweet as if it were roasted. If you already have roasted garlic to hand, add it almost at the end of cooking and perhaps use just a clove or two of raw with the onion, for contrast.
This recipe comes from thekitchn.com, but as always I tweaked it a little to suit my tastes. The original calls for all butter, 8 or 9 cloves of garlic and ½ teaspoon of powdered ginger, which I can’t bring myself to add simply because ginger is a dessert spice to me, even though I know it’s not so to a large percentage of world cuisine. Yet another award-deflector, I suppose.
Oh, and if you’re using raw garlic, as always, slice it lengthwise and remove any green pith, which is bitter.
Zucchini Garlic Soup
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter
1 white onion, sliced
4 to 5 large cloves of garlic, sliced thin
1 ½ lbs. zucchini (about 4 medium), cut in half lengthwise and sliced into half-moons, peeled or unpeeled as you prefer (I peeled mine)
1 qt. chicken or vegetable broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Melt the butter in a heavy 4-qt. saucepan until it foams and pour in the olive oil. As soon as it heats up, toss in the garlic and onions and cook over medium-low to medium heat for about 10 minutes—you’re going to sweat them until they’re soft, not sauté them until they’re caramelized.
At that point, add the zucchini and cook until it’s soft as well, about another 10 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a simmer; simmer for about 45 minutes.
Take off the heat and allow to cool for a little while, then put in the blender in batches and puree. If you want to know why, try it when the soup’s still hot; the lid will blow off the blender and your kitchen will look like the Swamp Thing sneezed, and you’ll spend an hour scrubbing it clean again and finding dabs of soup in the weirdest places. Not that I have ever done this myself.
Eat a little straightaway and save the rest in the fridge for later. As with all soups, it tastes better the next day, preferably with croutons or fresh bread. Or cupcakes.