Monday, September 11, 2006

summer squash soup

summer-squash soup with parsley mint pistou

I find it funny now — what with my obvious fascination with stirring up soups aplenty — that a couple years ago I didn’t care for them at all. Everything about the taste of vegetables boiled in flavored water until their structures compromised made my stomach turn and to this day, even the liveliest minestrone invokes a bad memory of flavor-sapped herbs and formless noodles. Even those that came close to passing muster were so laden with salt, I’d find myself aching for a glass of water after a bowl of something that was supposed to be soothing.

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

Summer-Squash Soup with Parsley-Mint Pistou*
Adapted from Gourmet, September 2006

Serves 8

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

For pistou**
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.


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