Before those little green zucchinis start landing on your doorstep, be sure to stoke your recipe arsenal.
In the 1970s, a bumper crop of zucchini was most often turned into quick bread and considered just shy of health food. James Beard even shares a recipe in “Beard on Bread,” suggesting cooks could use whole-wheat flour in their breads, but they still contained prodigious amounts of sugar and vegetable oil.
Its seemingly bland, tofu-like qualities may have led American cooks to consider baking the squash into cakes, cookies and muffins. But in most countries zucchini is treated as a vegetable. The French showcase zucchini in ratatouille, a tasty vegetable stew.
The Star’s Zucchini Soup offers another way to celebrate the flavor of summer without adding sugar and fat. The creamy soup is added to a base of low-salt chicken broth and flavored with the heat of a jalapeno and the fresh, pungent licorice-like flavor of basil.
Shopping (growing) tip: The smaller the zucchini, the thinner the skin and the more tender the flesh. Look for zucchinis no longer than 8 inches in length. Mature zucchini can balloon to the size of a caveman’s club — a size to which my dad enjoyed growing them. But this is not the time to go for a produce entry in the Guinness World Records book. The flesh becomes too seedy and unappealingly fibrous.
Cooking tip: This recipe can be pureed in a food processor, but this might be a good excuse to buy an inexpensive immersion blender.
Makes 6 servings (total yield about 8 cups)
2 lbs. small to medium zucchini (about 5 zucchini) stems trimmed but not peeled
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1/2 medium jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 (32-oz.) carton reduced-sodium chicken broth
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
6 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Slice part of one zucchini into julienne strips to equal 1/2 cup strips, cutting each julienne strip about 1 to 1 1/2 inches long. Set julienne strips aside to use as a garnish. Quarter all the remaining zucchini lengthwise, then cut into 1/2 — to 1-inch cubes. Set zucchini cubes aside.
Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add onion and carrot, and cook, stirring frequently about 3 to 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Add jalapeno and garlic, and cook 1 minute.
Add broth and zucchini cubes. Season lightly with salt and generously with pepper. Heat until boiling. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes or until zucchini is very tender.
Add basil and cook 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove soup from heat. Carefully, using an immersion blender, blend soup until smooth. (Alternately, pour soup into a large bowl and allow soup to cool slightly; ladle soup into a blender, in batches as necessary. Remove center from blender cover or cover leaving partially ajar so steam releases. Blend soup until smooth. Return soup to the hot pot and repeat with remaining soup.) Reheat soup if necessary.
To serve, ladle into serving bowls. Top each serving with julienne strips of zucchini and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon fresh grated Parmesan cheese.
Per serving: 134 calories (39 percent from fat), 6 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), 4 milligrams cholesterol, 9 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams protein, 127 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber.
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