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Dog days of August mean it’s time for zucchini sneaking | WHIDBEY RECIPES
Aug. 8, National Sneak Zucchini onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day, came and went and I’ll wager you missed your big chance to ditch your excess zucchini; if you had any, that is.
Everyone I talk to who has vegetables growing in or around their yard says about the same thing; “everything is late, this year.” Lettuces are doing well, as are most herbs, but tomatoes are still green and hard, peas and beans should have been plentiful more than a month ago, but are just now coming into their own, and the joke of all gardeners, zucchini, is far from its customary over-supply. Whether you blame it on the virtually non-existent spring we had, or the fact that hot, sunny days took so long to arrive, whatever the reason, zucchini will be a bit late this year, folks.
As if that weren’t enough of a reminder of our too short August summertime, we’d no sooner begun to comment on how hot it is and head for beaches and boats in droves, than our ever informative weather service tells us summer is about to be on its way out. Say what?
It’s true, unfortunately. According to a spokesperson from the National Weather Service, local temperatures typically begin to decline on or about the 17th or 18th of August, with decreasing highs and chillier nights. This means we have another couple of weeks, hopefully, to wear all the summer clothes taken out of storage such a short time ago. Question is, will it be long enough for blackberries to turn black, tomatoes to turn red, and zucchini to proliferate enough to sneak onto a neighbor’s porch?
There are a few other fun days coming up in August you won’t want to miss, such as Toasted Marshmallow Day on the 30th, and Race Your Mouse Day on the 27th. Yes, there is a copyrighted established “special day” deemed Race Your Mouse Day. I had to check that one out because the first thing that popped into my mind was “how silly; most people don’t have a mouse to race.” Well, of course, the folks who dreamed this one up intend for you to race your computer mouse around all the icons on your screen as fast as you can while you’re otherwise waiting for whatever program to open up. For reasons we won’t go into, I do spend too much time waiting for something I need to come up on my aging computer, but racing my mouse around on the screen is about as useless and silly as it gets.
Aug. 25 is Kiss and Make Up Day, the 26th is Women’s Equality Day (hooray hooray) and the 27th is Just Because Day, which is a day when you should do something totally unplanned; something you do just because you want to, not because you have to or feel you ought to.
Perhaps by the 27th, I’ll have enough zucchini to sneak some on my neighbor’s porch, just because I want to.
Even though it’s not official, August is almost always Chilled Soup Month around our house. Soup is a favorite meal any time of the year, but chilled soup is a special treat on warm August evenings (which, according to the National Weather Service, will soon be waning). I happened to be in the waiting room of a doctor’s office a few weeks ago perusing the old magazines, and found this recipe for a delicious zucchini lemon soup. Yes, it’s also good hot, but chilled and accompanied by corn bread or sourdough bread and a green salad, it is the taste of summertime.
ZUCCHINI LEMON SOUP
2 lbs. young zucchini (or other available summer squash), cut into ½-inch thick pieces
1 sweet onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
Kosher or sea salt, about ½ t. or to taste
¼ t. each, ground cumin, ginger and coriander
½ t. ground turmeric
1 T. canola or other vegetable cooking oil
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (always use homemade, if you have it)
Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste
Fresh snipped chives, for garnish
In a deep pot, sauté the squash, onion, garlic, cilantro, salt, spices in the oil over med. heat, until the vegetables are golden and tender, about 7 min. Add 2 cups of the stock and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 min. add remaining stock and continue to cook until the vegetables are very tender, about 5 min. more.
Puree the soup with an immersion blender, or in food processor or blender. If the soup is too thick for your preference, add ice cubes (this will both thin and help chill the soup). Add the lemon juice. Taste and add more lemon juice and salt/pepper, as needed; the soup should have a refreshing lemony tang. Chill well and serve cold, garnishing with chopped chives and/or cilantro. Serves 6.
If it’s August, it’s sweet corn time, and right now it’s as good as it gets. This recipe for Chilled Corn Soup is quick and easy and takes full advantage of fresh, sweet corn.
CHILLED CORN SOUP
2 T. olive oil
1 sweet onion (or white onion) finely chopped
½ cup finely chopped celery
Salt and pepper, to taste
5 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock, or use half stock and half water
3 ½ cups fresh corn kernels (cut from about 4 large ears)
¼ cup loosely packed fresh thyme sprigs
Juice of half a lemon (or to taste)
Heat oil in a heavy, large saucepan over med. heat. Add onion and celery; sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and sauté until almost tender, about 5 min. Add the stock/water, corn kernels and thyme. Bring to boil, reduce heat to med.-low and simmer until corn is very tender, about 25 min. Cool slightly; remove thyme sprigs.
Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth, adding the lemon juice as you puree. Pour through a strainer set over a large bowl, pressing on solids in the strainer to release liquid. Discard solids in strainer. If soup is too thick for your taste, thin with more water or stock by ¼ cupfuls, until desired consistency is reached. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Cover and chill until cold.
Note: If you’re fortunate enough to have fresh cooked crab meat available, adding it to this corn soup makes it outstanding!
The most well-known chilled soup is, of course, vichyssoise, and it’s still at the top of my chilled soup list. But, adding some of that fresh sweet corn we talked about above takes it to a new level.
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 med. leeks, white and light green parts only, coarsely chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
5 ears shucked corn, kernels cut from the cobs and cobs reserved
1 cup coarsely chopped peeled potato
4 cups vegetable stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper (or use white pepper if you don’t want black specks in your soup)
1 T. fresh lemon juice
Sour cream or crème fraiche, for topping
Finely chopped fresh chives
Heat oil in a large heavy pot over med. heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, about 5 min. Add corn kernels, reserved cobs, potato and stock. Season lightly with salt and pepper, increase heat to high and bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover with lid just lightly ajar, and cook until the vegetables are very soft, about 35-40 min.
Discard corn cobs; let soup cool slightly. Working in batches, puree soup in a blender until very smooth. Set a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl and strain soup, discarding solids. Chill soup until cold. If too thick, thin with cold water by ¼-cupfuls until desired consistency is reached. Stir in lemon juice; taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve, topped with a small dollop of sour cream or crème fraiche and a sprinkle of chives. Serves 4.