Eating in the Here and Now: Zucchini Basil Soup

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Of all topics in the world of nutrition one of my most passionate is that of eating for the season.  It’s a principal of many ancient and modern dietary theories including Ayurveda, an ancient Hindu practice that emphasizes diet, herbs and yoga to maintain equilibrium with nature. Macrobiotics, a Japanese practice that highlights the relationship between diet, lifestyle and nature as a means for health and longevity also places seasonal eating as one of its philosophical pillars.

Eating for the season.  The principal is so simple we shouldn’t even need to think about it.  But let’s do for a minute.  What would we be eating 200 or 300 years ago?  We’d have no grocery store access.  If we did, the only food shipped from afar would be spices.  200, 300 Years ago we’d be eating what we and our neighbors grow and harvest.  This, my friends is by design.  Our earth provides all the nutrients we need, when we need them.  Yes, people lived much shorter lives 200 and 300 years ago but please believe me, it wasn’t because of what they ate.  Heart disease, cancer and diabetic complications weren’t taking lives in the 1700’s.  Even if antibiotics were available, I could argue that heart disease, cancer and diabetes still wouldn’t be a leading cause of death back then.

Back to 2013.  Now that we’re in the dog days of summer our bodies are heated, maybe even over heated.  How to cool?  With the colorful produce you find at the farmer’s market: fresh berries, peaches, melons, cucumbers, greens, tomatoes, zucchini and peppers all cool us from the inside out.  Again, all by design.

I can’t talk seasonally without talking locally.  Here’s a fun fact: 70% of the world’s transportation is used to move or obtain food.  However, feeding yourself locally grown, locally raised food isn’t only gentler on the environment and it doesn’t only support your community, it truly is healthier food.  An apple is still living and growing when attached to its tree.  It only makes sense that a freshly picked apple holds maximum energy.  This energy is affected by all the handling that happens as the apple is harvested, shipped and merchandised at your grocery store by clerks that may or may not handle it with care.  At the grocery store that apple sits under a fluorescent light until it is purchased and stored in your refrigerator.  This is a long lifespan, especially for produce that’s shipped from overseas.  There you have it. Eating locally guarantees fresher food and maximum energy.

But don’t get me wrong.  Eating fresh fruits and veggies in general is indubitably important for good health. Don’t pass on the produce aisle if the product isn’t local.  If interested in finding local product, check into your local CSA at www.localharvest.org.  And of course the freshest food is food we grow ourselves.

My sister recently joked that leaving her car unlocked this time of year is sure to result in a car full of zucchini.  I want to live in her town!  Zucchini is packed with water, which puts the courgette high on the list of cooling foods.  They’re also high in fiber; Vitamins A and C that act as powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories; folate and potassium.  If zucchini is taking over your world (if not please let them in) try this zucchini basil soup recipe, adapted from epicurious.  One of my late summer favorites, this soup is velvety yet dairy free.  Your turn.  What are your favorite August recipes?

Zucchini Basil Soup

Adapted from epicurious.com
4-6 servings

  • 2 pounds zucchini, ends trimmed
  • 1/4 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup light olive oil
  • 4 cups vegetable stock or chicken broth, divided
  • 1/3 cup packed basil leaves
  • Juice from two lemon halves
  • Sea salt or kosher salt, to taste
  • Fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • Optional: greek yogurt for garnish

Optional for garnish: peel ½ zucchini, slice the peel into match sticks, then toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and drain in a fine mesh strainer until wilted, about 25 minutes.

Coarsely chop remaining zucchini into 1” chunks.

Heat a 3-4-quart heavy saucepan over low heat.  When pan is warm, add oil and sauté onion and garlic, stirring occasionally until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add chopped zucchini and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Add 2 cups broth and simmer, partially covered, until tender, about 15 minutes, adding more broth if necessary.

Allow to slightly cool and purée soup with basil in 2 batches in a blender (use caution when blending hot liquids).  Return soup to pot and warm if necessary.  Season with salt and pepper.  Slowly add lemon juice, tasting as you do to season to your liking.

Optional: Bring remaining broth to a boil in a small saucepan and blanch the sliced zucchini peel for 1 minute. Drain in the strainer and set over a bowl.

Serve soup in shallow bowls with a dollop of greek yogurt and sliced zucchini skins mounded on top.

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