How do you solve a problem like zucchini?
Among vegetables, it's incomparable in its bland wateriness. And yet for most of the summer, zucchini plants are to flora what rabbits are to fauna or what Ryan Adams is to songwriters: overwhelmingly, frighteningly prolific.
Most gardeners and summer Community Supported Agriculture members call on traditional methods for dealing with the glut of this summer squash, but few of them are truly satisfactory. Breaded and deep-fried zucchini is, like most breaded and deep-fried things, addictive - but making it is a labor-intensive ordeal. Zucchini pancakes (usually just grated zucchini bound with flour, egg, and a little cheese, then pan-fried) are less taxing, but rarely escape sogginess - and it's impossible to make enough of them to keep up with nature's supply. Zucchini bread, which disguises grated zucchini in a sweet, cakelike crumb, is delicious - but it, too, will hardly make a dent in a bumper crop. Sautéed zucchini, while easy to make, tastes insipid.
The best solution is neither traditional nor subtle. It involves roasting the zucchini to dry it out and caramelize it a bit, then puréeing it with a heavy quantity of creamy cheese. Oh, and a ton of garlic. Basically, to solve the problem of zucchini, you have to disguise its worst characteristics, mix it with super-flavorful ingredients, and then pulverize it beyond recognition.
Lest you consider this approach undignified, let me note that this soup has at least one thing going for it, image-wise: It's French. (I learned it from a college friend who learned it from a woman she stayed with in Lyons.) And the creamy cheese in question is the classiest creamy cheese in the world: Boursin, the Velveeta of France. Boursin gives American cream cheese a run for its money in the smoothness department, and melts into hot soup like a dream.
Flavor-wise, the soup has everything going for it, thanks to the Boursin and the culinary panacea that is roasted garlic. Best of all, you can make it in large batches - as large as your crop of zucchini requires - and you won't get tired of eating it.
Roasted Zucchini and Garlic Soup
Yield: 4 servings
Time: About 1 hour, partially unattended
2 small heads of garlic
2 pounds zucchini, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large yellow onion, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock, or more as needed
One 5-ounce package Boursin Herb & Garlic Gournay Cheese
1. Heat the oven to 425°F. Separate the heads of garlic into cloves and peel each clove. Toss the garlic, zucchini, and onion with the olive oil and a little salt and pepper on a 13- by 18-inch baking sheet (or two smaller baking sheets). Roast, stirring every 15 minutes or so, until fully tender and golden brown, about 45 minutes.
2. Turn off the oven. Scrape the vegetables into a large pot and add the stock. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, add about half the Boursin, and purée with an immersion blender (adding a little more stock if the mixture is too thick). Taste and adjust the seasoning, then serve garnished with the remaining Boursin. (Store leftover soup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a few days.)
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