01 August 2014

Southwestern Summer Squash Soup

Yellow squash make a short appearance at the farmer's market during the summer months here. They are small and as brightly golden as the sun, and when they are this fresh they need little cooking or embellishment to bring out their tenderness and subtle flavor.

I made this soup to showcase them after being inspired by a squash soup my mom always made and I enjoyed again when I visited this summer. Here squash coins are cooked  in a bright and clean broth until crisp tender, then topped with pickled jalapenos, avocado, and fresh corn cut off the cob. This makes a warm but light soup, just right for our long summer evenings where daylight extends until almost 9:30 at night, and the temperature drops to a pleasant coolness.

Somehow it's already August, and I'm not sure how much longer our summer will last here. But as long as possible I'll continue to enjoy soups like this, quinoa bowls, fruit salads (a simple red leaf lettuce salad is coming up next!), and no-cook breakfasts.

But what about you? What foods can you not get enough of at the moment? Whether you're enjoying summer or winter, I'd love to hear your current food loves in the comments below!

Southwestern Summer Squash Soup
Serves 4-6
Notes: You want to use squash and zucchini that have a narrow and firm body, which usually ensures they will have a tighter center (i.e. smaller/fewer seeds) and will not completely turn to mush when cooked.

Knob ghee (or extra-virgin olive oil)
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 red chili, minced (or jalapeno)
3 cloves garlic, minced
Handful cilantro with tender stems, finely chopped, separating stems from leaves
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
7-8 cups water
1 Tbsp. salt
6 firm and narrow yellow squash, thinly sliced (1/4")
2 firm and narrow zucchini, thinly sliced (1/4")

To Finish
Pickled jalapeno
1 corn on the cob, removed from cob

Heat ghee in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. (If using olive oil, heat over medium-low.) Add onion and chili, cook a few minutes until beginning to soften. Add garlic, cilantro stems only, and cumin. Cook for another minute until fragrant.

Add water and salt, cover, bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Taste broth at this point, adding more salt if needed. You want it to taste like a really well-seasoned broth, with smoky, spicy, and bright notes. It should be something you wouldn't mind having a bowl full of on its own.

Add sliced squash and zucchini to broth, and simmer for 5-10 minutes, until squash are slightly softened in the center but still with a bite at the edges. Stir in reserved chopped cilantro leaves, taste broth and add more salt if needed.

Ladle into bowls and top with pickled jalapeno*, corn, and avocado.

*Pickled jalapenos are very tasty in this and quite easy to find, even here (Migros/Coop in Mexican food section or Turkish markets). But a squeeze of lime and extra chili can replace pickled jalapeno in a pinch.