Creamy Zucchini Soup

Change is in the air. While I was walking through the farmer’s market in Capitol Hill last weekend I was admiring the abundance and variety that all the vendors have. We have hit that point where you are still seeing summer’s harvests while autumn’s harvest is starting to sneak in. This is one of the best times to visit a farmer’s market here because there are so many options. While we were at the market Brian and I picked up a treat from one of the bakery stands and sat in the park to take it all in. The sun was shinning, the air is cool, and we are starting to see the leave's colors slowly change. 

It is easy to see all the new produce at the stands and start craving things like pumpkin, kale, apples, and pears. But looking at the last of the zucchini and corn I am hoping to hold on to summer just a bit longer if I can. The air might not be as warm as I would hope for, but it will be summer in my kitchen, at least for this one meal.

Zucchini is the ultimate summer vegetable. You can prepare it in a multitude of ways, but the most perfect way to prepare zucchini when the air is cool like this is make a soup with it. I really love making a Creamy Zucchini Soup. I have been been making this soup almost as long as I have been cooking. The ingredients are simple and the epitome of its taste is sunshine and summer. I love throwing this dish together and it is comforting and homey in the way that most simple meals are. After the farmer’s market and seeing all those signs that summer is about gone I needed this; one last hurrah to savor the bits of goodness that summer was here. Thank you summer in my bowl of creamy zucchini soup, after this I can move onto autumn.

Creamy Zucchini Soup (Feeds 4 - 6)

6 cups sliced zucchini

1 onion, chopped into medium sized pieces

3 cloves of garlic, trimmed and sliced in half

3 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 - 1 1/2 quarts veggie or chicken stock

1/4 cup sour cream

Sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste

First, place a 6 quart pot over medium to hight heat. once heated through add your olive oil and heat until warm. Add the onion and zucchini and stir together. Let it all simmer and sizzle with the occasional stir about five minutes; the onions and zucchini will start to brown around the edges a bit. Add in your garlic and chili flakes and stir it all together again and simmer it all together about five more minutes. You are looking for the contents of the pot to soften a bit. Season the mixture with sea salt ad fresh black pepper to your liking and let it simmer.

Next, add your stock to the pot and let it all simmer together. Giving the pot a stir every so often, let the pot simmer and reduce by a 1/4.

Then,  once your pot is reduced you can remove it from the heat and let it cool about 10 minutes. Once it has cooled a bit you can add your sour cream. Using an immersion blender or food processor, carefully puree the whole pot together. 

Finally, place the pot back on your burner on medium heat and heat through. Stirring it frequently. Once warmed through, season again with sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste. Serve while warm and enjoy.

Corn Lime Soup with Cumin Scented Tortilla Strips

There is something about soup that I cannot resist. Even in the summer, I wait for days that are a bit on the cooler side for a warm soup. Or, I make a chilled one! Either way, I hugely enjoy them no matter the temperature. Corn Lime Soup

On a cooler summer evenings in Seattle a soup that is on the lighter side while being packed with flavor; that is what you want. Corn soup with cumin, lime, roasted bell peppers, and tortillas? Something like that is perfection. I first tried this recipe because it was one of Chef Sarah Moulton’s. Over time I have made it my own with little tweaks here and there. One thing I did learn from her though was that you can extract huge flavor if you place the corn cobs right into the soup as it simmers. Yes, very true and like a revolution to me in soup making way back when.

Carefully cutting the kernels from the cobs.

So the other day I saw fresh corn at the market, and the temperature only in the 70’s I knew I had to make this soup. I trimmed all the kernels from the ears, chopped veggies, roasted peppers, and made a salt / lime / cumin mix for the tortillas. While the soup simmered with the cobs in it, I fried up the tortillas. As I pureed and strained a bit of the soup, I also peeled the roasted bell peppers. As the soup was finishing, I stirred in the remainder of the corn kernels I reserved along with some fresh lime juice, roasted bell peppers, and minced jalapeno. It was all coming together, all the flavors were layered and waiting to be tasted. I ladled the soup into the bowls, we topped them with the seasoned tortillas and more fresh lime. It was light, warm, rich with corn, and an underlining spiciness. Perfection! Soup in the summer is fitting, especially if it is a corn one like this.

The Corn Lime Soup topped with the Cumin Lime Tortilla Strips.

Corn Lime Soup with Cumin Scented Tortilla Strips (Serves 6)

*Note: I like this soup as is; but there are times I have garnished it with fresh cilantro and diced avocado as well.

10 ears of corn

3 cups chicken or veggie stock

2 tsp ground cumin, divided

2 onions (medium in size), chopped small

4 celery stalks, chopped small

1 tbsp butter

sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste

1 red or orange bell pepper

2 limes - 1 juiced and zested, the other sliced

Chive, chopped for garnish

6-8 corn tortilla cut into strips

vegetable oil for frying

First, take all the corn cobs and carefully cut the corn kernels from the cob. Reserve the cobs and about 1 - 1 1/2 cups of corn kernels. Place a large soup pot over medium heat. Melt your butter in the pot and add your onion, celery, and 1 tsp of the cumin. Stir it all together and let it simmer and sizzle until the onion becomes translucent. About 5 minutes.

Next, add all but the reserved corn and the broth. Along with this add as many of the cobs that will fit into the pot with out ti over flowing. Let it all come to a simmer for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, roast your bell pepper in the boiler or on your burner (whatever you are comfortable with). Roast it until the skin is all blistery and charred and set aside to cool. Also, in a bowl stir together about 1 tsp of salt along with your lime zest and the other 1 tsp of ground cumin; and set it aside.By now, your soup should have simmered for the 15 minutes. Remove the corn cobs and discard them. With an immersion blender puree the soup. Strain about a 1/3 of it. Pressing on the solids to release all the liquid. Place the liquid back into the pot and discard the solids. Add your reserved corn to the soup, along with the jalapeño; and keep the soup over a very low flame to be sure it stays warm. Peel your bell pepper and roughly chop it into small pieces. State your soup and season as needed with you salt and pepper too at this point.

Then, in a pot pour in your vegetable oil. Heat it over medium heat and slowly add your tortilla strips. Fry them until golden and drain them on a paper towel lined plate. While still hot sprinkle with your salt / cumin / lime mixture and set aside.

Finally, stir in the chopped roasted bell pepper to the soup along with the lime juice you have reserved. Ladle the soup into the bowls and top it with the tortilla strips, chopped chives, and a lime slice along the side. Enjoy while warm.

Potato, Kale, and Bean Soup with Chorizo

Being that a huge majority of our family is back east, it is hard not to see the weather they are experiencing and wonder: How did we get so lucky? My Aunt and Uncle are in Massachusetts and when I spoke with them this week they said they have four foot snow drifts. (You read that right, four feet!) I could not help but chuckle as my aunt said to me, “I never remember paying someone so much in one month to help us remove all this snow!” As always I said to them you can always visit Seattle, it has been partially sunny and in the 50’s all week. When I spoke with my parents and in-laws (both in N.J.) they explained how bitter cold it is, but they have hoped it will warm up a bit. By warm up I know they mean anything other than the 5 degrees it was will be better. This all got me to thinking, when Brian and I were looking to relocate and start over again 5 five years ago we canvased the entire country. We played out all our options. We compared job opportunities - city life - culture - price of rent, and last but most importantly - weather! After discussing options in Chicago, Boston, New York, or Philadelphia; we both came to the assumption that we did not have any aspirations to deal with another east coast winter. That is how we got lucky.

Leeks simmering away.

We somehow knew that anywhere from San Francisco and north of there would be good for us. I know as crazy as it may sound, when we weighted out the sides it basically came down to either the harsh east coast winter verse the seldom chance of an earth quake. Yes, you guessed it. Slight chance of earth quake won…Did I mention that we like to live on the edge just a bit?

As I was thinking of all of our family and how chilly they might be, I made a soup that I wish I could share with all of them. It was a hearty bean, potato, and kale soup that you stir browned chorizo into when you plate it. I knew that if anything could warm any of them up this soup would be it! As we ate it we felt all warm and cozy, like we were wrapped up in a cozy knit blanket. I served it with some crusty bread and manchego cheese that paired perfectly. In my opinion this soup was so good it could make anything more tolerable, be it four foot snow drifts or single digit temperatures. This soup was so good I might just go back to the market to get more kale so I can make it again this week. To all my family and friend on the east coast: bundle up, stay warm, and eat soup.

Warm and cozy Potato, Kale, and Bean Soup with Chorizo.

Potato, Kale, and Bean Soup with Chorizo (serves 6)

**Note: Spanish Chorizo is a bit more mild in spice than that of Mexican Chorizo. If you like a bolder, more spiced flavor feel free to substitute one for the other. Or you can serve the soup with your favorite hot sauce, and you can add the amount of spice that you like.

3 cups sliced leeks, white and light green parts (washed well)

3 cups diced russet potato (peeled)

3 tbsp olive oil

2 cups small chopped kale, stems and ribs removed

1 can butter beans (15 oz), rinsed and drained

1/2 tsp dried thyme

4-6 links of Spanish chorizo, casing removed and chopped

6 cups chicken or veggie stock

sea salt and black pepper to taste

First, place a large pot over medium heat and warm through. Add two tbsp of olive oil to the pot and warm up. Add your leeks and let them simmer until softened, stirring them often.

Next, once your leeks are wilted add the potato and stir to mix it all together. Add the thyme and cover with the stock and bring it all to a simmer. Let it simmer until your potatoes are tender and about to fall apart when pressed against the side of the pot.

Then, add in the beans and kale to the pot and bring a simmer again. Do not let it boil and reduce it’s liquid too much, if so you can add a bit of water to the pot to keep it soupy and not too thick.

Meanwhile, place a large nonstick pan over high heat. Add your remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Once the oil is heated through add your chorizo (a bit at a time) and let it sizzle and stir often. Once the chorizo is browned, remove from the pan and let drain on a paper towel lined plate. Repeat until all the chorizo is cooked.

Finally, when the potatoes have broken down a bit and the kale is soft your soup is ready. Season it with sea salt and black pepper to taste and serve. Ladle the soup into your bowls and spoon in the chorizo and enjoy.