It’s summer time, it’s hot and dry, and the sky refuses to rain. All the potential storms keep missing the garden. Even our new cat is taking shelter under my desk as it’s the coolest place in the house. (Although he might still be feeling a little shy.) In spite of the heat, standing over a hot stove is still necessary to prepare meals for sesshin. We’ve made a few cold soups to combat the warmth however yesterday the stove went on and the hot kitchen got even hotter to make a lovely seasonal soup.
Courgette are wonderfully fresh at the moment. When simmered for a while their texture becomes soft and comforting; but their delicate taste usually needs a bit of help. After a few try-outs, I came up with this recipe and tested it during our busy month-long retreat. Shorin took note that during oryoki, when everyone is served by a team of servers, ten out of thirty-eight took seconds which is decidedly good news for courgette, especially when it is so darned hot.
On this occasion there was a pot of water I’d reserved that the carrots had been cooked in for lunch. It had a delicate, slightly sweet flavour and made for a nice stock base for the soup. So when I made it the next time I thought it might need a little extra sweetness…and it did.
1 medium onion
600 g courgette / zucchini (about 2 x 25 cm/10 inch)
2 cloves garlic
150 g (1 cup) frozen spinach, thawed
A few tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1¼ liters (5 cups) vegetable stock
2 teaspoons thyme
1 teaspoon tarragon
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar or lemon juice, to taste (optional)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Dash ground chili powder, to taste
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon raw sugar (also optional)
- Peel and medium-dice the onion.
- Cut the courgette into half lengthwise and slice into half moons.
- Peel and mince the garlic.
- Put the frozen spinach in a bowl to thaw.
- In a frying pan on medium flame, heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil and fry the onion until caramelized. Add the garlic and stir-fry until it turns golden. Transfer to a 3 liters (3 quarts) soup pot.
- In the same frying pan on high flame, heat up another tablespoon of olive oil and stir-fry the courgette until caramelized, then drizzle with the soy sauce. Keep frying until the soy sauce is almost evaporated and the courgette turns a lovely gold colour. Watch that the soy sauce doesn’t burn. Transfer to the soup pot with the onion.
- Add the stock and chili powder to the soup pot and bring to a boil over a high flame. Turn down the flame and simmer for about ten minutes, or until the onion and courgette are soft and tender. Stir in the thyme, tarragon, lemon zest and thawed spinach. Reheat just until soup is steaming; do not boil.
- If the soup needs a little more brightness, drizzle in the vinegar or lemon juice.
- Adjust the seasoning to taste, adding the raw sugar, and some extra thyme and tarragon if needed.
- Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.