I confess that I didn’t plant zucchini on my balcony. However, I inherited some of the overabundant zucchini from a friend. While it is best to pick zucchini while they are 6-7″ for optimal flavour, sometimes they grow to be big monsters in your sleep.
So what to do with those huge zucchinis? Until you cook with it, it has been shown to be a great weapon against bears (I can’t make these stories up!). Thankfully, living in a high-rise apartment means I can sleep soundly at night, not worrying about mischievous bears. I don’t even have to worry about zombie attacks, either, for the same reason. If they can scale the wall into my apartment, then they deserve to eat me. :P
So when my friend dropped off not one, but two monster zucchinis, I knew I had to get cracking. One zucchini, clocking in at almost 2 pounds, went into this delicious, creamy zucchini and basil soup sans creme.
Adapted from Fat Free Vegan, this soup had simple flavours that bursted despite its simplicity. Loaded with zucchini and basil, with a touch of garlic, it could have been excellent if we stopped there. However, Susan increased the flavour with a dash of nutritional yeast that added a cheese-like flavour. The cashews brought an extra element of creaminess. Both the nutritional yeast and cashews are optional, but I recommend them.
This was my first time using nutritional yeast, which can be found at health food stores (I found my tablespoon in bulk at the Big Carrot). But what the heck is nutritional yeast? It is a deactivated yeast grown over sugarcane and beetroot molasses. Its high nutritional profile is touted due to the high amount of vitamins (mainly B vitamins, and can also be supplemented with vitamin B12 which vegans need to be make sure they have an adequate supply) while being a complete protein. I don’t know if that is how it got its name, though. ;) It adds a cheesy, nutty, deeper flavour to savoury dishes, capturing the fifth flavour, umami. I liked it and may need to buy more than the 1 tbsp I got from the bulk section. ;)
Creamy Zucchini and Basil Soup
2 pounds zucchini (about 5 small to medium, or one huge zucchini!)
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 cups vegetable broth
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
3 tablespoons raw cashews (optional)
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional)
additional salt & pepper, to taste
1. Zest 1/8 cup of zucchini skin. Trim and coarsely chop the rest of the zucchini.
2. Cook onion in a large saucepan for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the chopped zucchini, salt, and pepper and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the broth and simmer until zucchini is tender, about 15 minutes.
3. Pour into a blender (or use an immersion blender, which is what I did) taking care to avoid burns by not filling the blender more than halfway. Add the basil, cashews, and nutritional yeast and blend until smooth.
4. Return soup to the pot, season with salt and pepper to taste, and keep warm. Pour soup into bowls and sprinkle zucchini zest over top.