Lucky, my friend Linda sent me home with a Julia Child cookbook -- signed by none other than Julia Child herself!! -- and an impression other than a boozy and wheedling woman at the stove. At culinary conferences, Linda reports, Julia was just another foodie, just another cook albeit a decidedly famous one, somehow able to make each one around her feel special. I like to think that if Julia were still of this world, she would be a blogger, embracing (hugging!) the medium like a few others of cookbook fame, Dorie Greenspan, Rose Levy Beranbaum, David Lebovitz, Harold McGee.
Wanting my world to be rocked, I thumbed the pages for ideas. The book at hand isn't the famed Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume One (and Volume Two) but instead Julia Child's The Way to Cook, not French, no, but classic for sure, a great choice for someone with some kitchen skills, more a book of master techniques and applications than a collection of recipes. If price is an indicator of the breadth and extent of this 500-page book, the retail price in 1989 was $50, wow.
The Cream of Zucchini Soup called to me, using a master recipe base of Rice & Onion Soup Base that is also applied to Cream of Chicken & Vegetable Soup, Cream of Cucumber Soup, Cream of Cauliflower Soup, Cream of Cauliflower Soup with Broccoli -- see what I mean about a basic technique with adaptations?
And yes, my world is rocked, not in earth-quake fashion but plenty. The soup was made almost from air - a bit of butter and onion for flavor; rice for substance; broth for volume; zucchini for color and more flavor; sour cream for creaminess. It was gorgeous and perfectly summer-ish even on a 100+ degree, even-the-dog-doesn't-want-out kind of day.
Thanks, Lisa, for the reason to wipe (lick?!) the bowl that is Julia! And Julia? happy birthday!
FROM THE ARCHIVES See the Recipe Box for all the zucchini recipes, especially if you're looking for recipes for stuffed zucchini or stuffed pattypan squash, both very pretty and way easier to make than they appear.
A YEAR AGO THIS WEEK Baked Parmesan Tomatoes ... "Oh so simple! Just tomato halves topped with a few ribbons of Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of just-snipped herbs from the garden, oregano on some, chive on the other."
TWO YEARS AGO Greek Greens ... this has become one of my do-it-all-the-time staples, a great way to 'hold' fresh leafy greens for a day or so
CREAM of ZUCCHINI SOUP
Time to table: 75 minutes
Makes 8 cups
RICE & ONION SOUP BASE
8 cups liquid (water or broth or milk or a combination)
2 tablespoons butter
1 - 2 cups diced yellow onion (any onion except a sweet onion is good)
1/2 cup uncooked rice (I used brown jasmine)
For ZUCCHINI SOUP
1 1/2 pounds zucchini, ends trimmed, skin on, grated (easy enough with a hand grater)
1/2 cup sour cream (or cream or crème fraîche)
Fresh herbs, for garnish (I used chive, Julia suggested tarragon or parsley)
Bring 4 cups of the liquid to a boil in the microwave. (This is an optional step that speeds things along. You could heat all 8 cups at the same time but I do it in a four-cup Pyrex dish that fits easily in the dishwasher so do this in two steps with no delay. You really can't conveniently warm milk in the microwave without scorching it so if using all milk, I'd skip this step entirely.) When the first 4 cups have been added to the soup, warm the remaining 4 cups of liquid in the microwave.
Meanwhile, in a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter til shimmery on MEDIUM HIGH. Add the onion and rice, stir to coat with fat. Let cook, stirring frequently and adjusting heat if necessary, til onions turn golden, about 10 minutes. Add the first 4 cups liquid and let cook, stirring occasionally, til rice is soft, about 30 minutes.
For ZUCCHINI SOUP
Stir in 3/4 of the grated zucchini and let cook for about 5 minutes, until zucchini is quite soft. In batches transfer soup to a blender and whiz til smooth. (Since the liquid is hot, to avoid burning yourself and making a HUGE mess, don't fill the blender more than half full and do hold on tight to the top of the blender. Since you're working in batches, you can put the blended soup into the bowl with the remaining zucchini.) Return all the soup and the remaining zucchini and the second 4 cups of liquid to the pot. Let cook for about 5 minutes, til the zucchini is barely cooked. Stir in the sour cream and stir well til diffused throughout the soup and warmed through. (Little pockets of sour cream are great, don't worry if you don't get them all.) Top with fresh herbs, serve and savor!
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