Early Summer Cream of Zucchini Soup

I began making pureed or creamed soups frequently during my first pregnancy. They were fairly quick and easy to prepare, stored well in the refrigerator and freezer, and delivered a lot of healthy antioxidants and vitamins in just one bowl. It was also nice to know that when I was tired at night or just didn’t know what I wanted to eat, the soup was already prepared and just needed reheating and a bit of cheese to make for a delicious and satisfying light meal.

After my daughter was born, I continued to prepare these yummy purees for the same reasons. More than ever, I needed to be able to make quick and easy dishes that were always at the ready and stored well. Now that I am gearing up for yet another little one, these now staple dishes have been particularly comforting. Even when I don’t feel well or don’t know just what to eat, a warm bowl of slightly salty, creamy vegetable soup is almost always just the ticket. Adding bits of salty cheese that slowly melt and meld into the mixture is also very comforting and soothing.

Well, even if you don’t have children or aren’t expecting any, I think you’ll like this cream of zucchini soup. It’s still early summer, so our gardens are not yet inundated with the delicate green squash, but this recipe is a delicious way to celebrate it, nonetheless. It couldn’t be easier, either. Four ingredients plus salt and pepper and a bit of cheese, if you want, it is all that’s needed here. You don’t even need cream, although you can certainly stir in a bit if you want a richer, more luxurious dish. I also like to hold back a bit of the cooked vegetables before blending the rest so I can add a spoonful of them to my bowl of silky puree. I like the contrast of textures and flavors. The same goes with the cheese. You don’t need it, but a bit of salty Swiss, smoked Swiss, or Gruyère is delicious here.

The optional addition of pastina is new for me, but again, it lends a pleasant texture and density to the creamy puree. I actually started incorporating it for my 15-month-old daughter. She loves this soup, but I wanted her to have a bit more nutrition. I thought the small star-shaped pasta would be just right and it was. Now Kate and I are both hooked on this flavorful, velvety puree, and I think we will be for the rest of the summer.

One more thing. I usually eat this soup warm, but it will do well at room temperature or even chilled, if you’re looking for a light, cooling meal on a particularly hot summer day.

Early Summer Cream of Zucchini Soup

Makes 5 to 6 cups

1/4 cup olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and sliced

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 pound medium zucchini, trimmed and sliced into 1/4-inch discs

Chicken or vegetable broth as needed

Freshly ground black pepper

6 to 8 ounces pastina, cooked until tender, for serving (optional)

Grated or sliced cheese, such as Swiss or Gruyère, for serving (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and stir to coat with the oil. Incorporate the salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the zucchini, stirring to incorporate, and cook, stirring frequently, until the zucchini begins to soften, another 5 to 7 minutes. Pour enough chicken or vegetable broth into the pan to just cover the vegetables. Season with pepper (a few turns of the pepper mill will do), reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer until the squash is tender, about another 10 minutes or so. You can also simmer the soup for a bit longer; it won’t hurt.

Remove the soup from the heat and pour it into a blender, holding back about 3/4 cup of the vegetables, if desired. Puree the soup until smooth and season with additional salt and pepper. The soup stores well in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. It also freezes nicely.

Serve warm bowls of the soup with spoonfuls of reserved zucchini and onions, as well as grated or sliced Swiss or Gruyère cheese, if desired.

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