What am I doing cooking out-of-season vegetables? There have been dark days of winter when I challenged myself to cook almost exclusively with local produce, and I have to say that it changed how I shop and how I cook, generally for the better. I became interested in the seasonal cuisines of other parts of the world with similar climates. The result is that so-called Mediterranean-inspired food was not in the picture during late fall and winter. No eggplants or zucchini, tomatoes or peppers, unless they’re home-canned or dried. In those dark days, nary a summer squash would enter the house. Except for one thing.
I have an urge, born of innate frugality, to “rescue” slightly tired vegetables from the clearance area of our local organic produce market, affectionately known as the “soup bin” and also from a local grocery store. Who could pass up six organic zucchini for under a dollar, even if they have a few nicks? I recently was served a curried zucchini soup somewhere when I was traveling and I thought how nice it would be to make some, if only I’d remember that moment in July. But no, those ‘”seconds” in the market were too good to pass up and fulfilled my hankering for this slightly spicy soup.
This is a delicious soup that belies the simplicity of its ingredients and preparation: onions sautéed in vegetable oil, curry spices added to blend, chopped zucchini and a little potato cooked with water until tender, and blended. Served as is, it was light and spicy, With the addition of a little cooked rice and yogurt, it became a heartier soup that felt appropriate in the winter.
Curried Zucchini Soup
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp (to taste) good quality curry powder
3 medium or 5 small zucchini, scrubbed and cut into chunks
1 small white or yellow potato, peeled and cubed
Water (about 3-4 cups, more if needed)
Salt to taste
Optional: a cup or so of cooked rice
Optional: a spoonful of plain yogurt per bowl
Optional: herb garnish
In a medium-large pot over medium heat, saute the onion slowly in the oil until translucent. Add the curry powder and stir to combine, cooking slightly. Add the zucchini and potato and continue to sauté until the surfaces are well covered. Add water to cover and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat so that the liquid simmers. Partially cover the pot. Cook until the vegetables are very soft, about 15 minutes. Puree the soup with an immersion blender (or process in a food processor). Add salt to taste.
Serve as is, garnished with herbs, or place cooked rice in the bottom of a soup bowl, ladle on the soup and top with a spoonful of yogurt (or heavy cream).