Some food, some drink.
Harvest Interrupted: Simple Summer Squash Gazpacho.
If your garden and/or CSA has benevolently blessed you with a mountain of yellow crookneck squash, and you're looking to dispatch them expeditiously, this cold soup is the answer. This recipe for summer squash gazpacho is beyond easy to make, and has a rich yellow hue that provides a bright and sunny contrast to whatever garnish you decide to top it with. And hey, as it's served cold, you're looking at a do-ahead that'll make for one less thing to worry about when it's time to plate up tomorrow's dinner.
A late freeze, a month of triple-digit temperatures, and very little rain seldom make for a successful home garden. And as if mother nature needed to really add insult to injury, my little patch of green was ravaged by a particularly nasty hail storm (this one was bad even by Kansas standards). Little did I know that my summer squash would rally; and now instead of the gigantic butternuts that fueled my obsession last year, I ended up with a giant mess of gnarly looking yellow crooknecks in every size, shape, and texture imaginable. I had to clear out some squash, and there was hardly enough of said gourd that was similar to another that would actually allow me to do anything consistent. Consistent... Hmmm... Consistency! What I needed was a way to homogenize the mess. I needed a soup.
Next to all those community cookbooks I seem to latch on to like so many stray cats, I have a pocket folder where dead-tree versions of recipes that I haven't gotten around to transcribing or digitizing are stored. It's a kind of recipe limbo that I'll throw an idea into when I know I want to reexamine it at a later date. This is important because a few years back I remembered squirreling away a recipe for a zucchini gazpacho (it's really probably more of a cold soup than a gazpacho, but saying "cold soup" doesn't really grab your attention in a positive way, now does it?).
To be sure, it's not my zucchini that have an image problem; but I figured that some of the methods and proportions in that original recipe would be a fine jumping-off point. Those yellow squash rode out a roller coaster of weather conditions, and came out none the more handsome for it. Regardless of the irregular and blemished exteriors, all of these squash have this ridiculously vibrant yellow hue that permeates the flesh; and I figured a good soup could really show that off.
Recipe: Jump to the detailed recipe. (or, keep reading for the gist of it) -
In a 4 quart pot over medium heat, add garlic, squash, salt and the first 2 ounces of olive oil. Heat it up until to it starts to sizzle, then reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally. When done, squash sould be uber tender. After the simmer, let the squash rest with the lid on the pot for 15 minutes before taking to a blender or food processor to puree. Run that blender for a good minute or two to ensure that everything's creamy-smooth in texture. Refrigerate overnight.
The next day before serving, add the one ounce portions of olive oil and rice vinegar, along with the white pepper and lemon juice and blend to integrate. Adjust seasonings at this point with any additional salt and/or vinegar. To serve, garnish each portion with a drizzle of olive oil and a bevy of diced veggies.
- There's a pretty wide window for doneness here, and despite efforts to cut pieces down to an even thickness, the least common denominator's gonna be the largest, funkiest squash you have. The cooking here is really about going long enough so as to ensure that the skin's not identifiable once you throw it all in the blender.
- Look I know that real gazpacho has bread in in it. That bread is there to provide body, a bit of thickness, and make sure that the soup doesn't separate. Well hey, guess what? There's plenty of fiber holding together that squash. If anything, those of you who like more of a soupier soup might even complain that this is a bit too thick. As I've mentioned before, I don't dig a runny soup, so if that's your deal, consider adding a bit of vegetable stock to get to the consistency you like.
- Likewise, a bit of carryover cooking never hurt either. Let that cooked squash rest covered in the pot for a good 15 minutes before attempting any blendage.
- Although a stick blender could manage, a food processor or jug blender is going to provide a creamier texture to the finished soup. I've tried both ways and it's worth doing the extra dishes.
- Refrain from that final round of seasoning until after that overnight chill-down. What your soup tastes like cold vs. hot will be quite different.
- When you reach for the rice vinegar, make sure you get the stuff that isn't seasoned. Seasoned rice vinegar adds additional sugar that this soup just doesn't need. I've made it both ways (for science!), and I can tell you that the final taste will be quite different.
- If you're only feeding one or two people, or just aren't um, "blessed" with that much squash, you can half this recipe no problem.
Garnish, garnish, garnish! Although this is a solid cold soup on its own, it really doesn't shine until it's been properly garnished. The first time I made this stuff, I made little flavor zones in my bowl to try different things: Grated carrot, diced celery, chopped tomato, cucumber, brown rice, croutons, crushed pita chips and chive all worked pretty good. Regardless of how you decide to garnish, you'll really re-ignite those fresh summer flavors by finishing each bowl with a good drizzle of your best olive oil, and maybe even a squirt of fresh lemon if you're wanting to brighten things up even more. Craving spicy? Sriracha was made for this stuff; add as much as you can stand before topping with the garnish.
One of my favorite things about this summer squash gazpacho is that there is no cooking involved when its time to eat. Even if you're not making this for a crowd, you could do a pot on Sunday and have your lunches on rails for the next few days. For a soup that has no dairy the flavor is surprisingly rich and buttery. Likewise, for a soup with no added carbs, I couldn't believe how full I was after the first bowl. This is is one of those recipes that can work as a no-fuss side along with your best grill fare as well as it could standing alone as a vegetarian / vegan main dish; in fact, if you are going meatless, I think you could add a skillet of focaccia and you'd be set!