Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Charred Zucchini Soup by Anna Thomas

Charred Zucchini Soup
I'm still not feeling well enough to do much cooking, so I smiled when I saw the label on the freezer container that said "Charred Zucchini Soup".  Ahhh, it was one of my favorites last summer, made from the abundance of zucchini in Tom's vegetable garden. I am so thankful that I froze enough for this winter.

This recipe is from Anna Thomas' cookbook, Love Soup, which I have raved about previously on this blog. (See my previous post for her Zucchini and Basil Soup and a description of her legendary culinary career.) Not only are her soups exquisite, she is a gracious, giving soul.  I contacted her about the possibility of posting her recipes on this blog.  She replied with warm, generous permission to share her recipes occasionally here, and was delighted that her pureed soup recipes could be helpful to those of us who need this type of diet.   When such an acclaimed chef responds with heart-felt authenticity and warmth, it makes me believe, at least for a bit, that all is right with the world.

With great thanks to Anna Thomas, I share her recipe with you. It is truly outstanding!  While she has several recipes for pureed soups, this recipe didn't include pureeing it, but I found it pureed with Pzazz!

Oh....the photos are from last summer when I made the soup. The picnic table where I ate it in August is now covered with 8" of snow.

Zucchini from Tom's vegetable garden
3 lbs. slender green zucchini
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
      2 medium red onions
      7 cups vegetable broth  
      (I used a low-sodium variety)                 
      3 Tablespoons Arborio rice
      1/2 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, chopped
      2 - 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
      freshly ground black pepper

      Optional garnishes: 
      Drained Greek-style yogurt, preferably goat yogurt                                                   
      Fruity olive oil
      A few toasted pine nuts
      Mint leaves 

Mint growing in greens mix on our deck

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
Wash and trim the zucchini and cut it into spears, then toss it with a tablespoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of salt. Spread the zucchini spears on a large baking sheet and roast them in the hot oven for 45 minutes to an hour, turning them once or twice during that time. You want the zucchini to be soft, shrunken and blackened in spots. The charred flavor of the zucchini makes the flavor of the soup, so don't hesitate to leave it a little longer; it should really look done. 

Zucchini roasting in the oven

When the zucchini is ready it will be reduced to 3 or 4 cups, and its flavor will be concentrated and infused with a smoky depth.

While the zucchini is in the oven, peel the onions, cut them in half crosswise, and then cut them into 1/2 in" wedges. Put the onions in a skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and cook slowly over medium heat, stirring often, until the onions are soft and dark brown in places, about half an hour. Anna Thomas' rule about caramelizing or browning onions is: when you think they're done, give them at least another 10 minutes, and maybe more than that. You'll see how the flavor deepens and improves.

In an ample soup pot, combine the vegetable broth and the rice and simmer, covered for about 20 minutes. Give the charred zucchini a few chops, just enough to have bite-sized pieces, and add it to the broth, along with the browned onion and the chopped mint. Continue simmering for another 5 minutes. Puree in small batches in a blender, or use a VitaMix which easily accommodated all of it.Return the soup to the stove top.

Add a tablespoon of lemon juice, taste, and add more, a teaspoon at a time, until the soup has a faintly tart edge. Grind in some black pepper, and correct the salt if needed. Over low heat, bring the soup back to a simmer. 

To serve, put a rounded tablespoon of drained yogurt in the center of each bowl and pour a big ladle of soup over it. Anna Thomas suggests pouring a drizzle of fruity olive oil over each serving and scatter toasted pine nuts on top. For my dietary needs, I omitted the drizzle of olive oil and pine nuts, though it sounds divine! Instead, I garnished my soup with mint sprigs.   

Nutrition per serving:                                                                                  
Servings per recipe: 7
Serving Size:  1 cup                                  
Calories: 110
Total Fat: 4 g                                                                          
Cholesterol:  0 mg
Sodium:  603 mg
Total Carbs:  18 g
Dietary Fiber:  5 g                      
Protein:  9 g