I am STILL in favor of zucchini, even after the gourmet experience at Mistral led me to consider that my sub-average picks at the vegetable stand may not deliver against picked-30-minutes-ago palate cleansing fireworks of a burrito that engraved its memory months ago.
After a pal dropped off some zucchini muffins last weekend, I nibbled on one at the same time upon stumbling upon the recipe for this typical Italian dish. First of all, I love licorice, real flavor the BLACK stuff (not the artificial red stuff!) and thus, fennel and anise studded. If you have not ever sampled fennel, one of my favorite salads of all time includes orange slices, lightly toasted walnuts and sliced fennel, with a little swirl of walnut oil) and a little dousing of lemon juice. SO delicious and simple.
Anyway, so the soup recipe just SPOKE to me, harnessing the softness of Northern Italy, and relying on the last goodness of summer’s basil and tomato.
Remember that my wonderful mentor sent a remarkable Christmas package that contained a gift that surprised me: a cookbook. I have been out of favor with cookbooks for the past five years now, in the past two years relying solely on revised concoctions mused from online sources. Yet this one, stole my heart. Twelve Months of Monastery Soups. A Benedictine monk authored this beloved edition that relies heavily on French cuisine and a sense of soulishness. What I cherished about this cookbook was that many of the selections felt foreign to me, and featured seasonal fare plant based and flavorful. I promised to make a soup from each month following the recipe exactly as written with no substitutions or creativity.
AND remember….I follow these recipes TO THE T. No substitutions, no swaps, no extra spice or flavoring here and there. And almost every time, I am surprised at the goodness that flows from my steadfastness.
Chop up 1 large onion, and saute it in 1/3 olive oil for about 5 minutes under low heat, until it becomes soft. Then you’ll add 2 minced garlic cloves and turn up heat to medium and stir for a minute or so.
Then, add in the goodies, turning it down to LOW:
2 fennel bulbs, thinly sliced, 2 medium zucchinis, diced, 6 tomatoes (peeled, seeded and chopped…I just boiled mine for a spell, peeled them and let cool for 10 and then seeded em up) and 8 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped. Just stir around for 2 -3 minutes, and don’t let it stick. Pour over the soup 6 cups vegetable stock, and 1 cup dry white wine (german riesling ROCKS!…for $4 a bottle) and then cover and cook for 30 minutes…then season with salt and pepper.
The only change I make now is to let the soup sit in the fridge a day before par-taking in the PLEASURE.
Like the new soup pot?
Oh, oh, oh, the licorice gives in a slight heat-y sweetness and sets the soup EONS above a basic tomato zucchini mixture. With a crusty side of brie and Special K Tomato Ginger Jam spread english muffin, and a carrot white bean salad with apples and a tahini sauce, I slurp-ped for a good 30 minutes straight, having almost three helpings.
What are you doing with your end of the season produce? Have you considered making zucchini pickles? (place shaved zucchini in a hot-tub of vinegars and spices and garlic and sliced onions and you’ll be spooning it out of a jar and dazzling guests when you roll them on top of crunchy flatbread crackers.