Another month zipped by already and it is already time for Andrea’s October picks from the River Cottage Veg cookbook for our cooking club. For the first time, I made the dish before she announced it. Not bad for an Armenian woman, ey? (We are always fashionably late.) Maybe Andrea and I were thinking the same thing? In my continued (and failed) efforts to summon cold weather by cooking wintery dishes, I made an Italian style zucchini soup with parmesan cheese and fresh herbs. I ditched the heavy cream (Call the doctors! Something’s wrong with me.) for cannellini beans not only to make the soup more creamy, but also to beef it up a bit. Made from fresh late-summer squash and basil, the vibrant green will soon give way to the reds and oranges of the coming season.
Making the soup was so quick and easy. While the zucchini sauté in the pan, make the “spiders” fashioned out of dark raisins. First, you press down onto a raisin and flatten it a bit. Then you can use either a good paring knife or kitchen shears to snip little legs off each side. The process sounds easy enough. no? Well, either I was too picky or hungry, because more of these little guys ended up in my tummy than on top of the soup. The raisin spiders can be made ahead of time and the kids would love to help.
There is really no cream in this soup, apart for the bit used to make the spider web. I wanted to keep it light enough to serve as a starter or side. It easily adapts to a healthy and delicious dinner with a bigger portion. The parmesan cheese and cannellini beans add substance and flavour without making dinner too heavy. Serve right from the stove with a fresh loaf of crusty bread, because a full belly promises good sleep on a chilly night.
There are several types of zucchini. While it is one of my most favourite vegetables, some crops can be bitter and ruin your entire dish. The dark green zucchini does not seem prone to this bitterness and it is my choice.
This recipe serves 4, so you only need 4 raisin spiders. But, I found that making them was not as easy as I had thought. So I suggest you have a good little pile of raisins handy and eat the “ugly” ones as I did. Also, the web does not have to be right in the center of the bowl. Put it off to a side. Asymmetry is interesting.
The soup is delicious and ready in a snap. Do not let the long instructions fool you – I’m just chatty.
Cottage Zucchini + Cannellini Soup
Inspired by Page 165
For the Soup:
2 Tb extra-virgin olive oil
7 medium zucchinis (the dark green kind)
3 stalks leeks
3 cloves garlic
32 fl oz free-range chicken stock
1/2 cup grated parmesan + more for serving
handful fresh basil
Salt + pepper to taste
For the Garnish:
handful of raisins
3 Tb sour cream
splash of heavy cream
plastic squeeze bottle
To make the spiders, press down onto a raisin with your thumb
to gently flatten it a bit.
Use kitchen shears or a sharp paring knife to snip little legs along
Pour heavy cream and sour cream into a plastic squeeze bottle.
Give it a gentle shake. Chill in the refrigerator until the soup is
Place a pot onto medium-high heat and
drizzle a bit of extra-virgin olive oil into it.
Peel, crush and mince garlic. Set aside for at least 10 minutes.
Wash the parsley and basil, rinse, drain and set aside.
Wash and slice the leeks. Immerse into a bowl of cold water
to remove the dirt that may be trapped between the layers.
Rinse and drain.
Wash and cut zucchinis into about 1-inch pieces.
Sauté until golden and aromatic.
Add leeks and garlic.
Continue cooking until golden.
Add stock, cheese, beans, lemon juice + zest.
Reduce heat to low and simmer 15 minutes.
Shortly before serving, add the fresh parsley and basil.
Use an immersion blender to purée the soup until smooth.
Divide soup among 4 bowls evenly.
Use the squeeze bottle to make several concentric circles with
the heavy cream + sour cream mixture
over the top of the soup somewhere off-center.
Drag a toothpick from the center of the innermost circle
to the outer edges around the bowl to create the web.
Drop a raisin spider somewhere onto the web.
Repeat the decoration for the rest of the bowls of
soup and serve with a fresh loaf of crunchy baguette.
The candlelit woodland-inspired tablescape sets the scene for a cozy, but festive dinner any night of the week. Details on how to make your own coming soon in my guest post for the stylish Janine of Happy Happy Nester. She has a crisp, fresh sense of design and cute craft ideas, like recycling old paper into paper leaves for a pretty wreath. She also shares some treasured family recipes, like her mom’s almond cookie and her homemade chai tea mix.
Fall is a wonderful time of year when the mercury starts to drop and the anticipation of the holidays brings about old fashioned notions, like baking cookies, making soup from scratch, gathering in front of the fire to play board games. A warm and comforting bowl of this bright green soup is a salute to lingering gifts of summer and the spooky little intruder is not only cute, but yummy.
Get the kids to help make the raisin spiders and the cream cobwebs. Dinner will be so delicious and fun, the kids will not even suspect you snuck some veggies into their bowls.