I recently had the opportunity to spend a day with my good friend Neelima Pandit. It's always such a joy to hang out with her! We went out for Persian cuisine (yum!), saw a fascinating documentary (The Queen of Versailles - I highly recommend it!), chatted over a wide range of subjects (beads, gardening, our kids, home renovation, our continuing education and postural health - don't you wish you were there too?!). Finally, Neelima served up a delightful bowl of a chilled vegetable puree soup that she blessed with a splash of coconut milk. OMG!!! I want to have this every day as long as the summer zucchini keeps putting out!
Neelima served her soup with some coconut milk for added creaminess. Then we talked about what we would to for variations on this theme. Regretfully, I didn't write Neelima's recipe down at the time, but this is what I made this morning from memory...
2 Tbs. Spanish extra virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
4 summer squash, roughly chopped (Any combination of zucchini and summer squash will do. I didn't use any of the seedier parts.)
8 fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 bunch of parsley, chopped
Organic chicken or vegetable stock, just enough to cover the vegetables.
2 bay leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Juice of half a lemon
Coconut milk as a garnish
Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion. Stir it around until is just starts to soften. Add the celery to cook until just starting to soften. Add all the squash and cook that, stirring occasionally, until that softens slightly as well. Next, stir in the tomatoes and let that cook in for about 5 minutes. Pour in the stock until it just covers the vegetables and add the bay leaves. Turn the heat down to simmer and let the soup simmer for about 40 minutes, until all the vegetables are nice and soft. Add the parsley once the vegetables are cooked soft and squeeze in the lemon juice. Fish out the bay leaves. Turn off the stove and let the soup cool for about 10 minutes.
Puree the vegetable soup in with an immersion blender right in the pot. (If you don't have one of these, for heaven's sake, what are you waiting for! Go get one! SO MUCH EASIER AND CLEANER than running this soup through a food processor or blender.) Let the soup cool to room temperature, then taste it for seasoning. (When it's cooled, that's the best time to decide how much salt and pepper it really needs.) Then transfer it to a pitcher and chill it in the refrigerator.
When you're ready to serve, pour the soup right from the pitcher into your bowl. Garnish the soup with a healthy tablespoon of coconut milk swirled around in the bowl.
*Options: The recipe, as it stands, makes a very Mediterranean-flavored soup. To give it a more Asian twist, add some ginger and lemongrass to the oil, add a few chilies in the pot, maybe a Kafir lime leaf with a bay leaf, use cilantro instead of parsley, lime instead of lemon.
You might wonder if your family would like this. I just fed it to my finicky eater for breakfast this morning. He's got a head cold and wanted soup. He wanted chicken noodle soup from the can, but I made this instead. And he just asked me for a second helping!