Season’s Eating: Zucchini Basil Soup

We have strawberries and cherries and blueberries, and soon even tomatoes will be showing up at our farmers markets in New Jersey — and it’s easy to overlook the zucchini.  I mean, you might give it a second glance, thinking cucumber, but once you realize it’s zucchini, you’re eyes will probably soon be diverted to the berries. It’s okay. It happens. Poor old zucchini is that vegetable that’s steadily present all throughout spring and summer; even growing in most gardens. Zucchini an old standby, hardly exciting, good for grilling, or for making zucchini bread when your garden starts to be too full.

But, I’m here to change that — or, well, basil is. That sweet, punchy, fresh summer herb has taken poor old  boring zucchini under his wing, and together they are going to make magic. In a soup.

It may not sound right, “zucchini basil soup”, but I promise you, it’s not weird at all. It light and fresh and tastes gorgeously creamy without adding any cream to the soup (zucchini is the magic ingredient that makes the creaminess possible.) The soup finishes on your tongue with a long lingering flavor of basil, like a bowlful of all the wonder of summer — sweet grass and summer herbs, fragrant in the warm breeze and oh, so smooth.

I think you’ll be happy to have this soup all season long.

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 (the soup can take a lot of both, so don’t stop seasoning until it tastes just right). Serve in shallow bowls with julienned zucchini mounded on top.

Robin Damstra is the Regional Editor for Hunterdon and Mercer Counties. She graduated Douglass College at Rutgers University, where she majored in English. She began teaching herself to cook in 2006. In 2007,  she started her food blog, Caviar and Codfish where she shares her culinary discoveries and gorgeous food photography.  She currently lives in Stockton, New Jersey.