Vegetarian: Chilled Summer Squash Soup with Yogurt, Mint, and Sourdough Croutons
Last summer, I joined a wonderful CSA based in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and began to truly understand seasonality after many years of purchasing any produce I wanted, at any time of year, from the supermarket. The fruits and vegetables I received in my share were absolutely delicious, at the peak of their ripeness, and another added benefit was the firsthand chance to experience their life cycle, if you will.
At the beginning of the season, it was peas of all kinds: shelling, snap, and snow. I had to think of a lot of ways to cook with peas. After a few weeks, different vegetables starting appearing in my share: for a while, I got a lot of kohlrabi, a vegetable I had never even heard of. Next came peaches—pounds upon pounds of perfect, juicy, sweet peaches. And then came the summer squash. Again. And again. And again.
Week after week, for the duration of the summer, I ate summer squash of all kinds: yellow and green, pattypan and crookneck, small squashes, huge squashes. I ate them in stir-frys, I ate them grated raw into salads, I ate them roasted, I ate them grilled. But besides my stomach, there was another place those summer squashes were accumulating: in the crisper drawer of my refrigerator. Try as I might, I could never eat all the squash I was given.
Given my thrifty nature, it is absolutely impossible for me to let food go to waste if I can avoid it. That's why one day, last summer, when faced with several pounds of withering, sad-looking squash, I thought: soup. Soup will absorb this motherload of vegetables, and it'll be easy to make, too.
When produce—especially local, organic produce—is at its peak, I don't like to do much to it. I like to let it speak for itself. That's why I kept my soup simple, basically stewing the squash with some garlic and onions, then pureeing it with plain yogurt and a bit of mint. After some time in the refrigerator, I had a cool, silky, pale green soup that was light but substantial, tangy but earthy, and ultra-refreshing on a hot day.
But it needed... something. That's why, when I spied an (also aging) loaf of sourdough bread on my counter, I knew it was destined for croutons. After a brief sojourn in the oven, the bread was transformed into toasty little nuggets that added the perfect final touch to my soup, upgrading it from appetizer to main dish status. Now, when I prepare this soup, I like to make a whole mess of croutons so that I can snack on them, like pita chips, throughout the week.
You're bound to encounter loads of squash of all kinds at the greenmarkets right now. So if your eyes are ever bigger than your stomach, and you take home just a few pounds more than you know what to do with, try this soup. It makes a fine meal on a hot, humid summer day.
About the author: Lauren Rothman is a former Serious Eats intern, a freelance catering chef, and an obsessive chronicler of all things culinary. Try the original recipes on her blog, For the Love of Food, and follow her on Twitter @Lochina186.