Zucchini basil soup.

So, what have you all been doing with your zucchini lately?  Baked goods? Fritters? Maybe grilled, or roasted, or raw?  It seems there’s so much zucchini come mid-July that I quickly exhaust all my zucchini recipes by August.  After a few weeks of summer, I could go a year at least without setting my eyes on the squash.  But not this year.  This zucchini basil soup will keep zucchini in my kitchen as long as the farmers are growin’ it.

It’s fresh, creamy, with a soft but certain hit of basil.  The zucchini acts as the base (and the texture if you add julienned strips of zucchini skin) but the basil’s the star; which is a good thing, as basil here in Western NJ has been on this summer.

It seems that every farm market in town is flush with basil—spicy, sweet, verdant basil—and one market is selling theirs for 99¢ a pound, damn-near giving it away.  I just hope that everyone has the good sense to make soup.

The soup is quick to make, but plan a bit of time for your julienned zucchini skins to wilt once you set them aside in a sprinkling of salt, so that later when you have them in the soup they’ve got a good texture, and won’t turn to mush.  It would also help to have a handyman like Howard.

While being quick to make is a plus, man if I wouldn’t cook all day for this soup.  Once you sit down to a bowl, you’ll understand.  It’s immediately delicious, fresh and vegetal, creamy without any cream, and then there’s a long finish that’s full of basil and a touch of salt, a taste that clings to your tongue and reminds you of sweet grass, and garden herbs, and summer.

And I’m sure your heard me, I said creamy without any cream.  Without cream, or butter, and with a piddlin’ ¼ cup of olive oil, this decadent soup is healthy undercover.  A big added bonus for the season of bathing suits and short shorts, since hamburgers and coleslaw seem to have forgotten that I’m trying to fit back into my bikini.

Zucchini Basil Soup

serves 3-4, from Gourmet, July 2008

  • 2 pounds zucchini, trimmed and cut crosswise into thirds
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 cups water, divided
  • 1/3 cup packed basil leaves

Julienne skin (only) from half of zucchini with slicer; toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and drain in a sieve until wilted, at least 20 minutes. Coarsely chop remaining zucchini.

Cook onion and garlic in oil in a 3- to 4-quarts heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add chopped zucchini and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Add 3 cups water and simmer, partially covered, until tender, about 15 minutes. Purée soup with basil in 2 batches in a blender (use caution when blending hot liquids).

Bring remaining cup water to a boil in a small saucepan and blanch julienned zucchini 1 minute. Drain in a sieve set over a bowl (use liquid to thin soup if necessary).

Season soup with salt and pepper. Serve in shallow bowls with julienned zucchini mounded on top.