I think the turning point came with the Cuisinart Immersion Blender gift from our wedding registry. Nobody better describes my affection for it than Julie Powell: “Have I mentioned to you that I love love love my handy-dandy cuisinart wand? I love it the way other women love their vibrators.”
In one minute flat, it converts everything in the pot into a velvety consommé, bridging the disparity between ingredients (“No! I don’t want to hang out with the icky squash!” whines the orange-fleshed potato) like a mother insisting her children play nicely together. No more alarming boiled vegetable flavor, no more awkward, thin spaces between ingredients, with each spoonful the same as the last, I find these soups contemplative; a calm brought on by the knowledge that every spoonful will taste the same as the one before.
The pistou, which I was as skeptical of as I had been of the lettuce pesto, really brightened up the fall flavor and color with some spring, kind of like eating an orange soup on an 80-degree September day.
To also note, with two carrots, a sweet potato and onions cooked in butter, this soup lends itself towards the sweet side of the palate and I seasoned it a lot more than the recipe suggests to balance it. I also threw an extra scallion in the pistou to brighten it up. Finally, but not intentionally, I (ahem) browned the butter before sautéing the onions but you know what? That nutty taste was awesome, and stayed with the soup ’til the end. Dreamy, indeed.
Summer-Squash Soup with Parsley-Mint Pistou*
Adapted from Gourmet, September 2006
For squash soup
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 medium onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 lb yellow summer squash, halved and thinly sliced
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 yellow-fleshed potato (1/2 pound), peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
4 cups chicken stock or reduced-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs
1 large scallion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon salt
Make soup: Melt butter in a 6- to 8-quart wide heavy pot over moderate heat, then cook onion with salt, stirring, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add squash, carrots, potato, and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, then simmer, partially covered, until vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool soup, uncovered, 10 minutes.
Working in batches, puree; soup in a blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids) and transfer to a bowl. Return purée to cleaned pot and thin with water if desired; simmer 3 minutes. Season with salt.
Make pistou while vegetables simmer: Pulse mint, parsley, and scallion in a food processor until finely chopped. With motor running, add oil in a stream, then add water and salt, blending until incorporated.
Swirl 1 tablespoon pistou into each bowl of soup.
* I did not, by the way, even once decide that pistou is an awesome word to say, and even funnier name to call my husband.
** I am lying.