My island neighbor Linda Kneble and I had a conversation a couple of days ago about how we both like turning zucchini and yellow summer squash into soup. Those squashes have a tendency to liquefy easily anyway. I cooked up some zucchini on purpose for soup just a little while ago, and it melted right down; I hardly had to add broth. I was reminded that another island neighbor, Judy Coffin, told me that when she was growing up here, her family always had a vegetable garden, but her father had little use for summer squashes because, he said, “they’re all water.” He liked substance to his vegetables.
Which brings me to roasting summer squashes before making soup out of them. Surely by now, I have mentioned that roasting almost any vegetable turns it into a superior form of itself. I was telling Linda that I roast summer squash for soup, and she allowed as how she would try that out.
Roasting the squash really cuts it down to size. You can use even the larger versions if you scrape out tough seeds. Roasting chunks of squash is perfectly OK but I found the easiest way to handle the squash is to run it through the food processor with a grater attachment. I oil a baking pan, and spread the shredded squash in it, and dribble a little more oil on top, tossing with a fork or spatula, then into the oven at 350 degrees, or if I am in a hurry, 400. I flip it around a couple times during the roasting process, and as soon as it softens up, in twenty to thirty minutes, I let it cool down, then scrape it off into a zip-closing freezer bag, flatten it, and freeze it.
The fun comes when you make the soup because the squash is merely a thaw-it-and-dump base for all kinds of seasoning and add-ins. I do curried ones; others with cumin, cilantro, and chili or chipotle; herby ones with tarragon, parsley, chives, thyme. You can stir pesto into the base, or a more jazzy mixture like Thai green curry, red pepper and garlic paste, or harissa. Or you can keep it simple and comfortable with butter, salt, and pepper. To thin it out, use chicken or vegetable broth, or milk or cream. Add sour cream or yogurt. Add corn, chopped tomato, broccoli, cauliflower, shrimp, chicken, bits of ham or sausage if you want a more hearty soup.
The summer squash in my garden right now are at the end of their season. We have grilled them, sautéed them, grated them into salad, eaten them roasted, and there are days when I don’t think I can look another patty pan or zuke in the eye. I’ll feel differently about these guys in January when I pull them out of the freezer.
Summer Squash Soup
1 -2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 cups of roasted summer squash, thawed or fresh, shredded
Herbs or spices to taste
2 cups of broth and/or milk or cream
Add-ins such as meat or vegetables (chicken, shrimp, corn, ham, cooked and crumbled sausage or bacon, cooked vegetables)
Heat the oil in a heavy one quart saucepan and add the onion and cook over a medium heat until the onion softens, about five minutes, then add the garlic and cook until you can smell it. Add the squash and, if thawed, heat through; if fresh cook until it is tender, five to ten minutes. Add the seasonings, the broth or milk, and heat until it simmers. If you are using extra meat or vegetables, add them now, and heat the whole just until it is warm through. Serve.
Makes three to four servings.