Summer Soups – Roasted Corn and Chilled Zucchini

Wasn’t August delightful? For those of us with access to fresh vegetables like corn, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and more, this late summer time feels special.

New recipes, of course, can take some time to explore. And of course, the past few weeks of August were a bit packed for me. Let’s just say there were a fair number of tomato sandwiches. When I did some cooking prep for the first time in awhile, I was so rusty I even sliced my finger while chopping onions!

I was faced with the reality that if I wanted to do my work, complete my final class assignment with any degree of quality, fulfill other obligations, AND prepare myself healthy meals, they were going to have to be fairly simple. The corn soup I made with leftover roasted corn? Not so simple. The chilled zucchini soup I made the following week was more reasonable. Though you might guess which was more delicious in this case. I’ll describe both here, in case they appeal to you.
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Starting with the zucchini soup: the recipe has wonderfully few ingredients, all of which I could get my hands on at home. I had almost forgotten about the garden zucchini in my fridge, which I acquired in a trade with my mom; she snagged some of my own garden tomatoes.

Chilled Zuchinni Soup
Adapted from the James Beard Foundation’s Isabela Wojcik

2 large zucchini
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion
, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced and divided
scant 1/4 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
1 Cup stock
, chicken or vegetable
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 Cup plain greek yogurt
(or other dairy such as sour cream or milk)

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Mise en place! Prep onion and oregano. To prepare the zucchini, trim, split in half lengthwise and thinly slice into half-moons.
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While slicing the zucchini, a couple of things dawned on me: my food processor could probably do this even faster, and the slices would be great for ratatouille. Next time.
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In a medium sauce or sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium. Add the sliced onion, half of the oregano (about 1/2 teaspoon), and red pepper flakes.

Careful with the red pepper flakes.

Careful with the red pepper flakes.


Cook until the onion softens and becomes translucent.
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Drop in the zucchini and cook through for several minutes, on lower heat. As soon as it starts to look dry, pour in the the stock.
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Let the mixture cook until the zucchini is tender and the stock is boiling. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Take off the stove and transfer to a blender or food processor. Purée.
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Add yogurt and blend. Taste and add more salt.
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Chill, and then serve with other seasonal foods and a hunk of bread. You could also eat it warm. I won’t judge.
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Roasted Corn Soup with Guacamole and Bacon
Adapted from Epicurious, Lourdes Castro

Soup
3 Cups of corn kernels, I used 2 Cups from 3 ears of leftover roasted corn and 1 Cup frozen, divided
1.5 Cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 to 1 Cup water
, as needed, for extra liquid
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove
, minced
1/2 onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, stemmed and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Topping
1 slice of bacon, cooked until crisp (separate)
1/2 Cup roasted corn kernels (from above)
1/2 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and chopped
1/2 avocado
1 Tablespoon shallot or red onion
, minced
zest and juice from 1/2 lime
Cilantro, if you have it!

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If using whole corn, remove kernels from cob.
This is one of those recipes that uses the leftover corn cob to infuse a soup with more corn flavor. Everybody’s doing it! The corn itself was leftover from a picnic, and I removed the kernels for the soup. So while prepping other ingredients, get your corn cobs simmering low in your broth plus some extra water.

This is how I keep broth on hand!

This is how I keep broth on hand!


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If using fresh corn, roast at least half of it in the oven at 450°F, on a lined baking sheet. Reserve some of the roasted corn for the topping, and put the rest in a blender.
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Cook the bacon and prepare the avocado, onion, pepper, and lime for the remaining topping.
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In a saucepan, heat the olive oil and add the garlic, onion, and jalapeno.
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Season with salt and pepper, cook until soft, at least 5 minutes.
Transfer to a blender with the corn.
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Pulse to combine.
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Remove the cobs from the stock and if possible, squeeze any liquid out of them. Transfer the corn mixture into the liquid and combine.
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Bring up the temperature to a boil while stirring frequently, and then lower heat. Simmer for about 10 minutes. You may need to add additional water at this point. Don’t worry–the flavor’s still there.

Ladle into bowls, garnish, and serve!
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See how dark it is? This took awhile to make.

See how dark it is? This took so long to make.

Love Affair with Zucchini

I could barely contain my excitement when I came across coveted squash blossoms while visiting the Ithaca Farmer’s Market last weekend.

These lovely, edible, light orange flowers of the zucchini plant are a delicacy, for sure, because as far as I know, they are only available for a short time in the summer. There is something special about eating a flower, especially when it has the potential for preparation as a feature in a meal, rather than a garnish.
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I had to wait a day to cook them, so they did wilt a little bit. But I already had ricotta in my fridge, planning ahead for this very time when I would get to stuff the flowers.

Rather appropriately, I also had zucchini itself in my fridge. I added it to a Smitten Kitchen recipe I saw a few weeks ago, “One-Pan Farro with Tomatoes.” I had been dying to make this recipe, mostly because I stinkin’ LOVE farro. (So chewy and yummy…shaped kind of like orzo pasta but with a denser texture, as a grain. Barley is somewhat similar). But also because Deb gave a very useful guide for one-pan cooking, based on her reliable testing. You see, most people (including myself) expect that the grain gets cooked in its own pot, and then the vegetables sauteed separately in second pan. Not her!

Full disclosure: I did use a second pan to saute my zucchini, since I thought it might benefit from a little sear and pre-softening, in case it became soggy when dropped directly into the main pan. I had looked over one of Smitten Kitchen’s other recipes with zucchini first for inspiration. That recipe has the squash ending up in a tart, and it does call for using a saute pan. At least I used that same saute pan for frying the blossom, which made me fairly efficient at minimizing the dishes pile in my sink!

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Squash Blossoms Stuffed with Ricotta

adapted from Gourmet on epicurus
Can be served with your favorite tomato sauce for dipping.

1 Cup ricotta, freshly made is best, and whole-milk is better, but part-skim (I used) is fine
1 large egg yolk
1/4 Cup fresh mint or basil or a combination, finely chopped
2/3 Cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
12 to 16 large zucchini squash blossoms
1/2 Cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3/4 Cup chilled seltzer, club soda, or beer
Vegetable oil for frying

Equipment recommended: frying/candy thermometer.

For the filling, stir together ricotta, yolk, herbs, 1/3 cup parmesan, and 1/8 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.

You may end up with extra filling, so feel free to scale it down to match the approximate number of blossoms you have. Yes, I realize that involves using part of an egg yolk–you could cook and eat the rest (why not?). Otherwise, I think that eggs are inexpensive and biodegradable enough that you aren’t being too wasteful if you discard a portion.

I used a combination of fresh spearmint and fresh basil from my garden.

I used a combination of fresh spearmint and fresh basil from my garden.


Carefully open each blossom and fill with ricotta filling, gently twisting end of blossom to enclose filling. I wouldn’t recommend using a spoon. The process will be so much easier if you can get your hands on something with a tapered tip which you can insert into the flower. Some reviewers did use the Ziplock bag-with-a-corner-snipped-off method.
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Whisk together flour, remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and carbonated liquid in a small bowl.
I didn't want to open a new bottle of seltzer to use only a small portion! But opening and using up a beer? That could be arranged.

I didn’t want to open a new bottle of seltzer to use only a small portion! But opening and using up a beer? That could be arranged.


Heat 1/2 inch oil to 375°F in a heavy skillet sized to fit half your blossoms. Meanwhile, dip blossoms in batter to thinly coat.
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Fry coated blossoms in batches, gently turning once, until golden, 1 to 2 minutes total.
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Transfer with tongs to paper towels to drain. (Check the temperature of the oil so it comes back up to 375°F between batches.) Season with salt. Serve alone or with tomato sauce.
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Farro with Summer Garden Vegetables
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1.5 Cups water
3/4 Cup semi-pearled/whole farro
1/2 medium onion
(I used about 3 ounces)
2 cloves garlic
4 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes
4 ounces zucchini
, diced
1 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
Up to 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (to taste)
2 teaspoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Basil leaves, cut in chiffonade, for serving
Grated parmesan cheese, for serving

Place water and farro in a medium saucepan to presoak while you prepare the other ingredients.

Add a little olive oil to a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add diced zucchini and cook until slightly softened, about 3 minutes.
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Add to saucepan with farro.

Cut halved onion in half again, and very thinly slice it into quarter-moons. Add to pot with farro. Thinly slice garlic cloves and add to pot.

Halve tomatoes and add.

Fresh from my front-yard garden!

Fresh from my front-yard garden!


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Add salt, pepper flakes (to taste) and 1 tablespoon olive oil to pan.
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Turn on heat to medium-high and set a timer for 30 minutes. Bring UNcovered pan up to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally. Check the farro’s texture after 30 minutes–it should be tender, but will be still chewy, and most of the water should be absorbed. If you let your heat get too high and the water boils off, you may have to add extra liquid.

Transfer to a serving bowl. Drizzle with additional olive oil, basil and parmesan.
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It’s a zucchini + pasta/grain craze! Melissa Clark of the New York Times also used zucchini and tomatoes this week in her recipe.

Having the plant and the flower together!

Having the plant and the flower together!