I never ate many vegetables as a child, nothing in particular stands out. We were mostly a meat and potato family with occasional soups, stuffed cabbage, recipes from our Hungarian cook and housekeeper and chicken casseroles, meatloaves and naturally steaks and lamb chops. We often ate leftovers from roast chicken which Ann, the cook, concocted for chicken a la king. However, what does jump out at me were puny squares of frozen vegetables, the carrot and pea variety, kind of traditional in our suburban household of the 1950s and 60s.
However, I developed a taste for zucchini early on in my marriage once my husband and I traveled to Zurich, Switzerland to study Jungian psychology. I created a garden in one of the rural houses we lived in outside of the city where our neighbor generously, with her tractor, sprayed a rich spread of cow manure on our soil. My husband rototilled it in. There, on our small plot, I grew vegetables, but also shopped at local grocery stores which stocked unusual vegetables, like fennel and kohlrabi, which are now in the states becoming more available at Farmers Markets and grocery stores.
Upon returning to the states my interest swelled for growing and cooking with fresh vegetables. I enjoyed eating the vegetables that I produced from seed and plants. In addition to the internet now, plus my large cookbook collection, I still rely on a cookbook I purchased in the 1970s — The Zucchini Cookbook by Paula Simmons. The books’ spine has begun to fall apart, but I like to browse through it making zucchini bread, cakes, zucchini fritters and other dishes which catch my eye. This cream of zucchini-potato soup I created after initially studying Paula Simmons recipe for the soup, but wanted something thicker and splashier, hence the addition of potatoes, which I saw repeatedly used in many recipes on the internet.
INGREDIENTS Serves 4-6
2 T. vegetable oil
2 T. butter, divided
1 1/2 lbs. – 2 lbs of zucchini, large ones or other sizes, sliced thickly or in hunks
2 medium size onions, coarsely chopped
3 plump garlic cloves, minced
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups milk, divided
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 – 3/4 cup grated cheddar, fontina or other good melting cheese, such as Gruyere or Gouda
1 tsp. Italian herbs, optional
1/2 tsp. ground sage
4-6 red or Yukon Gold potatoes, cooked and mashed, with a few tablespoons of milk and two tablespoons of butter added to soften the potatoes
1 stalk broccoli, coarsely chopped in one quarter to one-half inch pieces
1 stalk celery, chopped small
1 In a 5 or 6 quart Dutch oven, heat the pot to medium, adding two tablespoon of butter and two tablespoons of the vegetable oil. Add the onion, celery and broccoli, cook on medium low for fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally as the onions turn translucent and the celery and broccoli soften. Do not brown the vegetables. Add the garlic, lower the heat and cook 1-2 additional minutes. Add the zucchini, raise the heat slightly and cook another10-15 minutes as the zucchini releases its moisture, but do not brown the mixture. Add salt and pepper. Add the chicken stock and one cup of milk. Bring the pot to a gentle boil, lower the heat to medium- low and cook for 15-20 minutes as all the vegetables turn tender and the liquid reduces some.
2 Stir in the sage and Italian seasoning. Add approximately one half cup of mashed potatoes and stir in well. Add more for a thicker soup, less for a thinner one. Add some of the remaining half cup of milk, if more thinning of the soup is desired. Turn the heat off. Use a hand masher or a blender and mash well, or until the soup reaches the consistency you like.
3 Stir in the cheese. Adjust the seasoning and and serve warm or hot with biscuits..
Tips and Tweaks
- Add other simple vegetables, like carrots for a bit of sweetness when you sauté the onion and celery and broccoli.
- Add other herbs, like oregano, dill and or thyme. Or perhaps curry if you like its flavor.
- Don’t smooth the soup too much with a blender, leave some parts a little chunky.
- Serve with dollops of yogurt or sour cream.
- For a richer soup, use half and half at step 2.
- Add a little cayenne pepper at step 2.
- Sprinkle a little parmesan cheese on top when hot and ready to serve.