Those summer squashes (zucchini/courgettes) that throughout the lazy summer months were tender and thin-skinned enough for anointing with cream in delicate gratins, and ribboning raw into salads? Well, they are now lumpen beasts; their mass, weight and tough facade seemingly only useful as weapons. Perhaps light-sabres, perhaps clubs, perhaps bricks – variety depending.
And it seems to happen overnight. As any gardener will tell you, nearly all varieties in the Curcubita pepo family will bulk from 99 gram weakling into the Incredible Hulk with very little encouragement. But late summer squashes – big and lumbering though they are – come to make soup, not war.
As with most off-the-cuff soup recipes, I thought up this one when faced with a pile of ageing vegetables. Now, I love summer squash dearly – sliced, steamed and then dotted with a little butter and black pepper is my fave. Unfortunately, as with many vegetables, the bigger they are the seedier and more bitter they become.
But I also dearly hate waste. The thought of tossing these hulks onto the compost pile seems not only wrong but indecent. Surely with a bit of peeling and deseeding (the latter with a spoon, for ease) all will be right? It is, mostly. Very large zucchini are quite spongey fleshed and hyper-absorbent; coping rather poorly with a blast in the oven - my usual saviour for old, non-lettucey veg. So, soup it is. Lots of it. Lots because of course what big ol’ vegetables do have going for them is mass and volume. Perfect for soup!
I wish I could have kept the still-beautiful, sunglasses-required skin: the cancer health educator in me mourned the loss of all of those antioxidants and phytonutrients. But far better to have some very edible soup than a mouthful of bitter, overblown nutrients. There is still the Vitamin C and a dod of iron, but zucchini aren’t particular nutrition powerhouses anyway.
What does amp up the goodness is the addition of walnuts, and of course onions. The walnuts are of special note because of the disproportionately large amount of Omega 3 fats contained within their crunchy meat. We don’t get nearly enough of this essential fat – especially true for vegans – as the best source, in its most absorbable form is found in oily fish. Walnuts easily help fill this nutritional gap. Try and get skin-on walnuts – most of the beneficial goodies are somehow slipped into the papery skins. More info on this highly-rated treenut can be found at World’s Healthiest Foods. Incidentally, the phytosterols and ‘good’ fats in walnuts may help to prevent breast cancer and prostate cancer.
Enough chit chat, let’s eat!
Last year: Squidgy Raspberry Brownies (gluten-free)
Two years ago: Sweet and Tangy Berry Tabbouleh (love this!)
Miss R’s track of the week: London Grammar’s Strong – a unique alt rock trio soon to release this soaring plaintive cry of a song – spine-tingling
The “creamy” here comes from souped and blended walnuts. Use good quality nuts: they are important for taste as well as texture. I have written this up with walnuts and thyme, but I just know it would be fabulous with mint, basil and pine nuts. If you make it this way, let me know how it turns out
90g (1 cup) skin-on walnuts – toast for five minutes at 180C/350F
1 large onion, chopped
1 ½ tbsp olive oil
1 ½ tsp dried thyme leaves (less if yours is quite strong-tasting)
2 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves, minced
750g (6 cups) chopped zucchini/summer squash – yellow or green
1.2 litres (5 cups) vegetable or chicken stock/bouillon (or a mix of the two)
Zest of half a lemon (more to taste)
Freshly ground pepper
Fresh thyme leaves (lemon thyme if you have some) – optional Dash of honey – if needed, in case of slight bitterness
1. Heat the oil in a soup pot and add the onions. Saute gently until translucent. Add the bay leaves, dried thyme and garlic, and sauté a few more minutes. When the garlic smells fragrant and the onions lose their raw smell, add the chopped zucchini and the walnuts. Stir and pour over the hot stock. Bring to the boil. Lower the heat to simmer and cook gently for 20 minutes, adding the lemon zest during the last minute or so.
2. Remove the pan from the heat and fish out the bay leaves. Ladle into a blender or use a hand-blender/immersion blender to blend the soup to a beautifully smooth texture. Test for seasoning and taste – adding pepper, salt and/or honey if needs be. Add in the fresh thyme leaves, if using.
This week I am sending this to Lavender and Lovage’s Cooking With Herbs recipe blog challenge. Karen is a fabulous supporter of others’ works and I do appreciate the opportunity to share over at hers. And, as (nearly) always, this is all homemade so I am batting it to Mark at Javelin Warrior’s Cookin’ W/ Luv for his weekly roundup of homemade goodies on Made With Love Mondays.
I would also like to submit this soup to two other challenges. First of all to the Four Season’s Food challenge by Louisa at Chez Foti and Anneli at Delicieux. This month’s theme is ‘Sliding into Autumn’ and I think this recipe, like last week’s, fits perfectly. And also to Credit Crunch Munch (although this is more of a slurp!), founded by Fuss Free Flavours and Fab Food 4 All. This month’s host is Elizabeth’ Kitchen Diary (inspiring photos too).