This soup started out as a vague idea of dinner. The evening was getting on. A horse-riding lesson had delayed the arrival of two of the members of the household, and while outside it was still light, even hot, everyone inside was tired and hungry. I had to make food quickly out of the ingredients we had, preferably something cool and soothing to counteract the press of sticky air.
We had an abundance of summer squashes from the CSA, part of an onion, and half a box of half and half bought to make ice cream and on the tail end of its lifecycle. A few days more and it would be cottage cheese.
This combination could have gone any number of ways. The challenge of home cooking, cooking that is one more task in a busy life rather than a hobby or a profession or an art, is to bring together what you have to make what you want. Today we wanted cool soup. So I made cream of zucchini.
First I put out the ingredients. Five of the squashes, the last bit of an enormous onion that had been contributing to our meals for the last few days. The half and half. Some garlic. Olive oil, in a glass bottle with a red plastic top that lets out a slow drizzle. We use this bottle so often it gets kept at the back of the stove.
I hate chopping onions, and there was a lot of produce to chop, so I got out the food processor. If you want to make this at home, you could use a mandolin or just a knife. I did the onion first and set it to heat in the bottom of a large pot with a drizzle of the oil. Soon it started to sizzle, and the familiar smell of frying onions rose into the air. I smashed the garlic to peel it, and put three huge cloves whole into the pot with the onions. I like garlic a lot. You can use less if you like.
The food processor made short work of shredding the zucchini, and when the onions were starting to brown, I added them. They cooked away as I cleaned up and laid out the rest of the meal. Once the squash had softened, released its water, and turned a brighter, translucent green, I took it off the heat and added some of the half and half. You could use milk, or even water, and add cream or butter for flavor. Or not. I put the mixture through the blender, or rather, my immersion blender, which left it mostly smooth. I added salt, and more half and half, so that the texture was right. It lacked…. something. A bit of a bite. The garlic had mellowed in cooking, to the point of fading into the background. The squash was quite sweet, and I wanted a more savory character. A pinch each of paprika and coriander solved that, and the soup was ready to serve. We ate it with bread and a pasta salad, with pesto, tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, with blueberry buckle for desert.
Cream of Zucchini Soup
2 lbs zucchini (about 5)
1 pint half and half (or a combination of water, milk and cream, to taste)
1 medium onion (or half of a giant one)
4 regular sized garlic cloves
salt, paprika, and coriander to taste
Chop the onion and fry it in some olive oil. Shred the zucchini and peel the garlic. Once the onions are soft and golden, add zucchini and garlic and cook until quite soft. Add some of the half and half, puree, and then add more until the desired texture is achieved. Season to taste.