Monday, August 19, 2013
We’re finally getting near the end of zucchini season. It’s not that we don’t still have a lot of zucchini. We do, we do. But they are different from those first firm, intense tasting ones that started showing up at the beginning of June. The ones I’m hauling in now are big, bloated and have a thicker skin. They still have a lot of taste, but a recipe like Zucchini Carpaccio just isn’t gonna work with that combination of tough skin and more or less mushy flesh.
I was reminded of how each vegetable has its own micro season the other day while reading Melissa’s article in the New York Times. When she was in Rome, I invited her to lunch at the American Academy and we took a walk around the vegetable garden with Chris Boswell, the chef of the Rome Sustainable Food Project. He talked all about vegetables and learning to get the most out of them depending on whether they are early, middle or late in the season. Melissa’s recipe for Tomato Crostata, Fried Green Tomatoes and Green Bean Salad used tomatoes at their various stages, or micro seasons.
I was thinking all about this when I was standing in the kitchen with a huge swollen zucchini in hand. ( I could make a comment here, but won’t). Rather than trim away the inner, spongey part, as I do when I make pasta, I thought it would make good soup. But instead of going for the tired and true zucchini soup I make all the time, I decided to hearty things up with a bag of chickpeas.
Although you could use canned chickpeas, it’s even better using dried since this recipe calls for the water the chickpeas are cooked in, which gives a ton of extra body and flavor.
That, plus the huge amount of zucchini flesh which sort of transformed into mush, made the soup intensely flavorful, without using any stock at all.
Lesson? Next time you’re in the kitchen, deciding what to do with that zucchini you’ve got in your hand, just remember: size does matter.
chickpea and zucchini soup
1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas
2 bay leaves
1 onion, cut in half
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil
5 cups roughly chopped zucchini
3 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup chopped basil
Soak the chickpeas for at least six hours, or over night. Rinse the chickpeas and put them in a pot and cover with water. Bring to simmer and skim off the foam that rises up. Once foam has stopped appearing, add bay leaves, onion and salt. Simmer until very tender. Remove bay leaves.
In another large pot add olive oil and chopped onions and raise heat to medium. Cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, stir for a minute, then add tomatoes and salt. Turn the heat up a bit, and cook the tomatoes down until they lose their liquid.
Add the zucchini, chickpeas and the water they cooked in. Add enough water to come up one inch above the zucchini and chickpeas. Stir, cover and simmer for about 40 minutes.
I like to puree about half of the soup, using an immersible blender. Taste and adjust for seasonings. Serve warm, or if you’d like in the summer, room temperature. Top with grated parmigiano and a drizzle of olive oil.
I specifically don’t add hot pepper to this soup, but there are some people who like it, so I usually put it on the table so each can add his own.