Wednesday, August 11, 2010

On Being There: Summer Squash Soup

This week, my yoga teacher asked us to try to return to the place before we knew how to think outside ourselves, before we knew how to busy our minds with past and present.  I like this idea, that we know how to do this, and have just forgotten, need little reminders.  As I was doubled over myself in downward facing dog, I couldn't help but think about how biking on Saturday was just like that: there was nothing except where I was, right then, right there.  And it was so refreshing, just to be there.  It's not easy, though.  I'm an expert wanderer; I'm rarely (mentally) wherever it is I actually am (physically).

Today, on the way home from work, I stopped at our farm.  The snap beans were picked pretty clean (or at least, I didn't see many that were 8" long, as they specified), the blackberries weren't quite ripe, and by the time I was done poking around in those parts of the field, I wasn't feeling much like hunting for okra.  But I'd come intending to pick flowers, and the whiteboard encouraged members to snip liberally (quantity: unlimited!).  As I clipped the blooms, making bouquets of fiery zinnias, delicately blushing snapdragons, and cheerful rudbeckia, I found myself drawn in.  Into the now.  In the midst of my senses, in the midst of color, in the haze and humidity of summer, feeling the sweat on my back, I sensed the space around my body and the bump in my belly, completely present to myself.  I could have stayed in that field all day, despite the heat, and in fact, before I knew it, more time had passed than I'd intended to spend there.

I once had a friend guide me through a meditation on a raisin.  We each took one raisin in our mouths, felt its texture with our tongues, bit it and savored the first drops of sweetness, chewed slowly and observed the taste and texture change.  We so often rush through our meals, but perhaps this is a good practice; after all, we all have to eat, so it's as good a place as any to begin mindfulness and being present.  This soup might be a good one to try that with, because (especially topped with almonds) there's such a variety of taste and texture: creamy, tangy, crunchy, toasted.

I found the recipe last year I was looking for things to do with zucchini (not that I had much to speak of at the time, like I do this year) and happened upon a post at 101 Cookbooks.  Though I tend to think of buttermilk as something that I either put in cake to make it moist or that old people drink straight up, I decided to give it a try.  The buttermilk gives it a creamy tang, though, that complements the potatoes and zucchinis beautifully.  You could substitute half and half or soymilk if that's what you have on hand, though, or if your diet requires it.  I discovered that the soup was even good cold the next day ... so it would probably make for great picnic fare.  But you don't need to go there right now.

Buttermilk Summer Squash Soup

If you like a deeper green soup (and some bonus nutrition), add a handful of chopped spinach toward the very end - a minute or so before pureeing.

a generous splash of olive oil (2 T.)
3 large shallots, chopped
a couple pinches of fine-grain sea salt
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
3-inch sprig of rosemary
1 1/2 pounds yellow or green summer squash, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices/chunks
3/4 pound potatoes, un-peeled, cut into 1/4-inch thick pieces
3 medium cloves garlic, chopped
3 cups lightly flavored vegetable stock or water
2/3 cup buttermilk
garnish with: fresh herbs, toasted almonds, a generous drizzle of olive oil/ melted butter, and/or some crumbled feta or goat cheese
Heat olive oil in large thick-bottomed pan over medium heat. Stir in the shallots, salt, red pepper flakes, and rosemary. Saute until shallots are tender - a couple of minutes. Stir in the squash and potatoes, and cook until the squash starts to get a bit tender - a few minutes. Stir in the garlic, remove the sprig of rosemary, and then add the stock (or water) to the pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

Puree with a hand blender. If you like a silkier soup feel free to pour the soup through a strainer. Slowly whisk in the buttermilk, taste, and adjust the seasoning - adding more salt if needed. I like this soup topped with a bit of crumbled goat cheese and some toasted almonds - but it's perfectly good straight, too.
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  1. Yeah, um, I'll have to try that recipe later, lol. Thank you so so much for the muffins, can't wait till they get here.

  2. The farm sounds lovely. :) I have some squash lying around, maybe I'll see if I can whip this up this weekend.


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