Have you ever stopped to admire the beauty of vegetables? I find that this is something I’m doing more and more; I am enamored of the delicate fuzz on the top of a tomato stalk, the perfect Fibonacci of a romanesco, the deep purples of kale, the neon lights of rainbow chard stalks, the darkest maroon of beets, the streaks of lavender on garlic skin. My CSA recently started giving us zucchini, and this zucchini is more beautiful than any I’ve seen. It’s a beautiful, grassy green, with a perfect lace of white spread throughout and a milky white interior. It is also, not surprisingly, very delicious! I used some of it to make a soup that I believe encapsulates the flavor of summer, as much as a hot soup can. The body of the soup is thickened by the zucchini as well as rice, the flavor of the zucchini shines and is enhanced with parmesan cheese and a generous amount of basil. It’s a wonderful soup that comes together quickly and is a perfect way to use up the amazing amount of zucchini that is available now.
This recipe is not my own, but is from one of my favorite cookbooks: The Flexitarian Table. I was initially intrigued by this book, as I grew up in a household with vegetarian parents but am a meat eater. The book is based around the idea that certain components of the same meal can be made either non-vegetarian or vegetarian to accommodate both without a lot of extra effort on the part of the chef. While this was what initially drew me in, it was the recipes that kept me coming back. The recipes were simple, and straightforward, but they were always better than the sum of their parts. And, the recipes are organized seasonally, thus ensuring that you are eating them at the right time. I got this book when I was first starting to more seriously cook for myself and friends, and I believe that the style of cooking influenced me significantly. It contained dishes that I wanted to make, that were approachable, but full of flavor. And now, they are dishes that I make over and over again, even though I can’t help but modify them a bit!
Back to the recipe itself: it’s simple and perfect for a summer night when the sun goes down and it’s cooled down a bit. Simply saute some onion until they are translucent. Then, add some chili flakes for a bit of a kick! Then, of course, the aforementioned zucchini and some garlic. Allow these to soften a bit, then add enough water to cover plus another inch or two, several pinches of salt, and bring to a boil. Once you’re at a boil, reduce the heat to simmer, throw in the rice, and basil, and cook until the zucchini breaks down and the rice is tender. When that happens add as much parmesan as you would like, a few more sprinkles of fresh basil, and some lemon zest to brighten up the flavor. It’s delicious as a side soup, but I think could serve as a fitting main with a side of crusty bread. Srini and I also thought that it would be delicious to add in some shrimp or hot Italian sausage as well! I hope you enjoy this delicious, summery soup!
Zucchini, Basil, Basmati Soup
|Prep:||Cook:||Yield: serves 6 people||Total:|
A delicious soup that tastes just like summer with zucchini, onions, garlic, basil, and plenty of Parmesan!
- 1.5-2 pounds zucchini, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 2 medium yellow onions, minced
- 6-8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, or more if you want it spicier
- 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cups water
- 100 g (1/2 cup) basmati rice
- 1 handful of basil, de-stemmed, and sliced, plus more for garnish
- 1/2 cup of grated parmesan, plus for more garnish
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Lemon zest to garnish
- Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a dutch oven or medium saucepan until it just starts to shimmer. Add the onions, and cook until translucent. Do not let them brown. Add the chili flakes and stir to combine.
- Add the zucchini and the garlic and stir well. Allow to cook until the zucchini starts to soften and the garlic becomes aromatic, about 3 minutes.
- Add the water. If the water level does not come up to the zucchini, add a bit more. Don't let the soup get too watery. The goal is to have the zucchini covered by about 1 inch of water. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil.
- Once the soup reaches a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer. Add in the rice and the basil. Add a few pinches of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Don't be too generous with the salt as you will be adding in Parmesan cheese later.
- Cover the pot and allow to simmer, stirring intermittently, until the zucchini is tender and has started to melt into the soup, and the rice is fully cooked. The goal with the rice is to be just past al dente. Add the Parmesan cheese and stir well to incorporate. Taste, and adjust the seasoning.
- Serve, garnished with fresh chopped basil and some lemon zest and of course more Parmesan!
Vegan? Try stirring in a spoonful or two of white miso paste into the soup.
Carnivore? Try dropping in slices of Italian sausage in the last 10 minutes or so of the simmering process. Or try adding shrimp in the last 5 minutes.
What to eat with it? Bruschetta, Grilled meats or seafood, crusty bread
Adapted from Peter Berley's 'The Flexitarian Table'