Summer squash is not a vegetable that excites me. My experience with winter squash is much more established and deliciously experimental. However, when faced with zucchini, I draw a blank.
Perhaps my lack of enthusiasm comes from the perpetuation of the uninspired vegetable plate in New York City restaurants. A vegetarian entrée staple, the grilled or roasted vegetable plate (or sandwich or salad) usually consists of five or six slabs of overcooked zucchini and yellow squash, undercooked eggplant, soggy red pepper, and if you’re lucky, a mushroom. Drizzle with olive oil, serve on a bed of wilted lettuce, charge $12.00, and you have something I never want to eat again as long as I live.
But come summer, squashes are everywhere, looking bright and sunny and inviting. Zucchinis are deep, mottled green; yellow squashes are cute and knobby. And at 99 cents a pound, I want to buy them by the basketful despite the fact that I have no idea what to do with them.
At a recent trip to the farmer’s market, I settled on two of each. I figured I could sauté a pair into a stir fry (which I did and it was awesome—stay tuned to this space) and sleep on the other two. I figured would come to me.
And it did. I wanted soup…A cold soup…Something light and refreshing on a hot day.
It occurred to me that I could just tinker until I got something that resembled soup and hope it tasted good cold. Then I thought of the floppy roasted zucchini. Barf. I wanted guidance. Somewhere out there in the universe must be a recipe that replicated what I could almost taste in my mind.
I stared at the many spines on my cookbook shelf, some I haven’t cracked in years, a few not since purchase. I pulled down one of the latter, Cooking the Whole Foods Way, a cookbook I bought during my brief vegan period.
Written by cancer-survivor and PBS cooking show host Christina Pirello, Cooking the Whole Foods Way touts the healing powers of a macrobiotic, dairy-free, unprocessed diet. At the time I bought it, I rarely cooked but had big dreams of doing so. At 500+ recipes with no pictures, the tome was too overwhelming and remained untouched.
As I thumbed through, I wondered why I’d left this book unused for so long. Page after page of whole grains, legumes, vegetables—whoops, fish?—okay, skip that section. (Editor’s note: The 2007 edition of Cooking the Whole Foods Way is 100% vegan.) But still. The recipes were right up my street, and “Jim’s Lemon-Zucchini and Leek Soup” was exactly what I wanted.
It was if I’d willed the soup into being. Everything about it sounded light and summery. As I read the instructions, I thought to myself, that’s what I would have done…that’s what I would have done.
What I would not have done is thought to have added a whole pound of leeks—or lemon juice—but they are perfect additions, and let me tell you, the lemon juice makes this soup.
After I had whipped everything together in no time flat, I zapped it in the blender, took a taste, and thought, “Meh.” I was so disappointed. Then I remembered the lemon. Zap-zap! Amazing!
Bright, sunny, and delicious, I had it for dinner the next evening with tortilla chips and a salad. It was the perfect meal on a humid, summer night, and it fed me for a week. Summer squash is no longer uncharted frontier; and I have a new favorite map. It was destined all along.
Chilled Summer Squash Soup
Adapted from Jim’s Lemon-Zucchini and Leek Soup
Yields 6 1-cup servings or 4 1-1/2-cup servings
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 lb leeks, sliced and cut into 1/4” pieces
1 lb zucchini (green and yellow), sliced and cut into 1/4” pieces
4 cups vegetable stock
4 oz tofu, crumbled
2 tbsp yellow miso
juice of 1 lemon
sea salt to taste
fresh ground pepper to taste
1) In a medium pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic, with a dash of salt. Cook 3 or 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2) Add squash, leeks, and another dash of salt. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender.
3) Fill pot with enough broth (or water) to just about cover the veggies. Jack heat up to high. Boil. Once it begins to boil, drop the heat to medium-low. Cover the pot. Simmer 30 minutes.
4) When 30 minutes are up, add tofu plus any remaining broth (or water). Simmer 10 more minutes.
5) Scoop out about a cup of broth. Add miso to that cup. Stir until it's all dissolved. Pour back into soup. Simmer 3 or 4 more minutes.
6) In a blender or with a stick blender, puree soup until smooth. (Let cool a little before using a regular blender so it doesn't explode.)
7) Add lemon juice and fresh ground pepper to taste. Give it another zap of the blender.
8) Chill 2 to 12 hours. Serve with salad and sourdough bread or tortilla chips contented it was meant to be.
Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
135.6 calories, 2g fat, $.89 (6 servings)
203.4 calories, 2.9g fat, $1.34 (4 servings)
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil: 40 calories, 4.6g fat, $0.03
3 cloves garlic: 12.6 calories, 0g fat, $.04
1/2 large onion: 40 calories, .2g fat, $.50
1 lb leeks: 324 calories, 0g fat, $1.89
1 lb summer squash: 140 calories, 0g fat, $.99
4 cups vegetable stock: 60 calories, .4g fat, $.76
4 oz tofu: 125 calories, 6.4g fat, $.40
2 tbsp yellow miso: 60 calories, 0g fat, $.54
juice of 1 lemon: 12 calories, 0g fat, $.15
sea salt: negligible calories and fat, $.02
fresh ground pepper: negligible calories and fat, $.02
Totals: 813.6 calories, 11.6g fat, $5.34
Per serving (totals/6): 135.6 calories, 2g fat, $.89
Per serving (totals/4): 203.4 calories, 2.9g fat, $1.34