|Review - Tasty: Get Great Food on the Table Every Day|
Aug 17th, 2006
Jim: So what's for dinner?
Me: Well, I don't really feel like cooking tonight. But there's leftover soup in the fridge.
Jim: The good soup? With the cheese?
So here is the recipe for the good soup with the cheese. As well as being good and cheesy, it's also (at least in part) the answer to the question of what to do when summer squash are taking over your fridge. And a perfect excuse to review the cookbook from whence it came - Tasty: Get Great Food on the Table Every Day, by Roy Finamore. Now is that a multi-purpose zucchini soup recipe or what?
This book reminded me a bit of another I recently reviewed, Recipes: a collection for the modern cook by Susan Spungen. Both books are based on a New American style of cooking that incorporates techniques from Italy and France, both present a straightforward collection of dishes that are suitable for everyday meal preparation and casual get togethers with friends, and both have a connection to Martha Stewart (Spungen worked on both magazine and book projects with Stewart and Finamore edited her cookbooks). I enjoyed both books, but in the end added neither to my collection - they just don't quite fit with my style. That said, the personality projected through the pages of Tasty is quite appealing to me. Finamore comes off as your favorite gay uncle - his food is casual, welcoming, and ever so slightly more fabulous than yours (disclaimer: I have no special knowledge of nor interest in Mr. Finamore's actual sexual tendencies). He wants you to get into the kitchen and cook, and he wants you to enjoy yourself - and to not be afraid of slinging around a bit of butter and cream while you're at it. It's a fun book to read through even if, like me, your tastes run a bit more to vegetable-based dishes than flank steak and rustic fruit tarts.
Now, on to the actual recipe - a zucchini and cheddar soup very reminiscent of the more common broccoli and cheddar. I made the simple recipe even simpler by omitting the cheddar croutons - basically due to laziness on my part, but I'm sure they're quite tasty. And I couldn't bring myself to add the entire 3/4 of a pound of cheddar called for in the recipe - I just kept adding until it tasted right to me, which was probably at about a half a pound. As is probably obvious to most of you, when a recipe is this simple and based on so few ingredients the quality of your ingredients is paramount, so do invest in a good cheddar even if it hurts to watch the entire block of cheese disappear into the soup pot, and taste each zucchini before adding it to the saute pan. I neglected to do this and one of my squashes was bitter - it didn't bother my husband, but I could detect it in the finished soup and it disappointed me. So taste your squash raw - if it's bitter when raw it's going to be bitter when cooked!
Zucchini Cheddar Soup4 tbsp unsalted butter
2 onions, chopped
3 1/2 lbs mixed summer squashes, sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine or vermouth
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound best cheddar, shredded
For the cheese croutons
2 large slices hearty bread (like farm bread)
1/4 pound best cheddar, shredded
For the soup
Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When it stops sizzling, add the onions, squash, and a good pinch of salt. Cook, stirring once in a while, until the vegetables have collapsed and released their juices, about 10 minutes.
Pour in the white wine and bring to a boil. Then pour in the stock and add the basil and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Bring the soup back to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. The squash should be very tender, almost falling apart. Let the soup cool for a while, so it doesn't erupt when you puree it.
For the cheese croutons
Heat the broiler while the soup simmers. Toast the bread in a toaster and place on a baking sheet. Cover with the shredded cheddar and slip under the broiler. Watch carefully, and leave it in just long enough for the cheese to melt and start to brown. Let the toasts cool, then cut into squares - how big is up to you.
Puree the soup in batches in a blender. Wipe out the saucepan and return the soup to it.
Bring the soup back to a simmer. Stir in the cheddar by handfuls, letting each batch melt before adding the next. Check for salt and pepper.
Serve in deep bowls with the croutons.
-Roy Finamore, Tasty