Blushing tree leaves and the arrival of bone-chilling gusts of wind have me looking forward to beef stews, pumpkin pie and spaghetti carbonara (among other cool weather fare). But they also have me looking back, wondering where the summer went, wishing I had eaten more tomatoes when they were a dollar a dozen, thinking I wore my swim suit entirely too few times, and devising ways to use those last few summer ingredients that are still cheap and readily available in grocery store aisles. Zucchini once again caught my eye.
Zucchini would not likely win a summer vegetable popularity test. Though green and fresh looking, they can't just be bitten into with a sprinkling of salt like a red pepper, hothouse tomato, or cucumber. What, exactly, does zucchini qua zucchini taste like? Cool, slightly watery, dense...that's about all that comes to mind. Zucchini is not the type of vegetable to win awards in the leading role category. Alone, it seems meek and lackluster. But in the supporting role category, it may be the most talented of all vegetables, somehow deepening and freshening the flavors of other ingredients without stealing the show.
Take, for example, zucchini bread. Countless children have been tricked into eating significant amounts of shredded zucchini under the guise of cakey slices of bread. They don't taste it. Even though I know it's there, playing its part to mellow out the cinnamon, to moisten the crumb, and to contribute vitamins and minerals to my breakfast treat, I don't really taste it.
The flavor of zucchini is even elusive in recipes that overtly feature it. This zucchini soup is the third zucchini installment to appear here, and, although I'm still having trouble translating its flavor into words, it comes the closest to the essence of zucchini I've managed thus far. Although my zucchini fritters were almost entirely made up of zucchini, I think that the fritter texture--crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside-- steals the spotlight over the taste of the zucchini. Stuffed zucchini blossoms are delicious alright, but filled with hot cheese and coated in fried batter, the essence of zucchini they certainly are not.
This soup contains a fair amount of rosemary, but the herb manages to play up the flavor of the zucchini instead of overshadow it. I used chicken broth in this version, but I suppose that using water instead would render a more "clean" flavor. With every spoonful, I felt as though I were just about to put into words the essence of zucchini, but, in the end, I'm still at a loss. I do know that this soup will become a late summer staple, and anyone with a backyard garden overrun with giant zucchini is welcome to unload some of it in my kitchen. Just be sure you make a big batch of this soup first. And then write me and tell me what it tastes like.
Zucchini and Rosemary Soup
adapted from a 1995 Bon Appetit recipe (from the Inn at Perry Cabin, St. Michaels, Maryland). Serves 6-8.
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, sliced
3 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
6 cups chicken broth
2 russet potatoes, peeled and sliced
4 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
Chopped green onions
1. Put butter and oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and rosemary. Add stock and potato. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Add sliced zucchini and simmer for about 15.
2. Puree with an immersion blender, or, poor soul, in batches with a stand blender. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls. Top with green onions.