October 10, 2006

Top THIS, Whole Foods - Roasted Zucchini Soup with Fried Sage

I blame it my kitchen remodel...

In the spring of 2001, we spent 6 weeks without access to the kitchen. Our experience was better than some -- we set up a small kitchenette in one corner or the dining room and had access to the refrigerator, microwave, electric skillet, and a four-quart roaster oven in addition to the outdoor grill. But doing dishes in the bathroom sink was a drag, so we still turned to convenience food quite a bit.

Determined not to subsist on quarter pounders and pizza, it was during the remodel that we discovered Whole Foods' prepared food aisle. Sushi. Couscous salad. And a culinary rainbow of prepared soup options.

Cream of Mushroom.

Corn Chowder.

And my latest indulgent obsession: Tomato Chipotle.

Every time I put a $5.00 pint of soup in my cart, I cringe with guilt and think that I could probably make soup cheaper and healthier at home. The devil on my left shoulder encourages the indulgence: it's probably a lot of effort.

Enter this month's Monthly Mingle hosted by Meeta of What's for Lunch, Honey. October's challenge is to take two ingredients, staples for me this time of year, and get creative in the kitchen with them. The ingredients: zucchini and sage. The selection intrigued me. A little bit of leftover summer. A little bit of incoming autumn. Perfect for days where I find myself driving to work with the heat on and home with the air conditioning running.

I knew immediately I was making soup. I spent a week or so pondering what *kind* of soup. In the end, I drew inspiration from my friend Marianne at The Unemployed Chef, using her Roasted Zucchini Soup with Fried Shallots as the basis for my creation.

I started with three of the last zucchini from our friend Steve's garden, and an onion I had on hand. Chopped them roughly and tossed them in olive oil and a bit of salt.

After an hour at 450 I had some nice caramelization on the outside and the soft texture Marianne recommends on the inside. While the veggies cooled a bit, I fried a few fresh sage leaves in an inch or so of vegetable oil. Which made my kitchen smell heavenly. After pureeing the vegetable medley in the food processor I added the following (measurements approximate - I just eyeballed it):

1/4 cup homemade beef stock ('cause it's what I had on hand)
1/4 cup pinot blanc (again, it was open and available -- I thought it would add a sweet touch to the mix)
between 1/4 and 1/2 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon dried sage (this I did measure)

Pulsed the above in the food processor a few times, plated the soup and added my gorgeous sage leaf garnish.

The result? Let's just say I won't be spending $5 soup at Whole Foods any time soon. For less than 30 minutes worth of active effort (and I got some dishes and laundry done during the inactive time) and probably less than $5.00 in total ingredient cost, I have one of the best homemade soups I've ever had. I'm already thinking of variations I can add: roasted tomatoes, mushrooms, winter squash, bell peppers.

Consider me converted. Farewell Whole Foods.

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wheresmymind said...

Yeah...but somenights when cooking just isn't in the cards, it's nice to have a heathier backup plan than pizza ;)

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

This recipe looks yummy and so incredibly easy! Roasting the zucchini makes all the difference. I've got some beautiful sage leaves in my herb garden that haven't succumbed to cold weather yet; I will definitely try this recipe. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Yummy. I do love the idea of zucchini soup.

Meeta K. Wolff said...

Dolores, this is such a fab idea. Soup is perfect for this time of year and the ingredients are brilliant to use in a soup. Thank you for taking part!!

Brilynn said...

I wouldn't have thought to fry the sage, but I'm sure it was a really nice touch.