Soaring temperatures and high humidity have been unremitting features of much of this summer. As a result I have found myself planning lighter meals to counter the oppressive weather, especially when entertaining.
Twice this past week, for example, I served icy-cold Zucchini Vichyssoise to begin meals. The first night I ladled the chilled mixture into bowls and offered it as a first course for a supper in honor of out-of-town visitors.
The next evening, I took a big container of it to the home of good friends to have as an appetizer.
On both occasions this simple soup provided a perfect respite from the heat outdoors.
It could not have been easier to prepare. As with traditional vichyssoise, I used chopped leeks and potatoes, but in this version I added sliced zucchini as well. The last melded beautifully with the other ingredients, and after all the vegetables were simmered in chicken stock until tender, the melange was pureed, then enriched with milk and sour cream.
The squash gave an attractive celadon hue to the normally white potage. Garnished with dollops of sour cream and a sprinkling of snipped chives, the soup was a hit at both gatherings.
Although I relished the refreshing taste, I also prized the recipe because it didn't take long to prepare and could be made completely in advance.
Because this is the season when farmers' markets, groceries and friends' gardens are overrun with squash, I was happy to have a tempting new way to use this delicious vegetable.
Serves 6 generously
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 cups chopped leeks, white and light-green parts only
1 1/4 pounds zucchini, ends trimmed and zucchini thinly sliced
1 1/4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
4 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups whole milk
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sour cream, divided
3 tablespoons chopped chives
Heat oil until hot in a large, heavy deep-sided pot with a lid set over medium heat. Add leeks and stir and cook 5 minutes until softened. Add zucchini and potatoes and stir and cook another minute. Add stock and bring mixture to a simmer. Then reduce heat to low and cover with lid. Cook until vegetables are soft, 30 to 40 minutes.
Remove and puree mixture with a food processor, blender or food mill. Return pureed soup to pot in which it was cooked. Whisk in milk and season with 1: teaspoons salt and several grindings of black pepper (see Note). Cover and refrigerate 2 to 3 hours or longer until icy-cold. (The soup can be prepared 1 day ahead.)
When ready to serve, whisk in : cup sour cream. Taste and add more salt, if needed, since cold dishes often need extra seasoning. Ladle into 6 soup bowls and garnish each portion with a dollop of some of the remaining sour cream and a garnish of chopped chives.
Note: The amount of salt required will vary with the chicken stock you use. This soup needs to be salted generously to bring out the flavors. When made with regular chicken stock, I used at least 1: teaspoons and sometimes more salt. When I tried the recipe with reduced-sodium stock, I needed much more salt.