Tuesday, July 12, 2011

summer squash and leek soup.

yesterday was the perfect summer day.

my friend holly stopped by bremen for a visit, and i did my best to prepare a day full of stereotypical activities associated with daily life in a small, historic european city. as you can imagine, there was a lot of quaintness to pack in.

we kicked things off with a morning trip to the farmer's market, which was not only excessively charming, but also led me to the discovery that portobello mushrooms do indeed exist in germany. a sale on summer squash also obviated having to make any decisions about what to prepare on what i knew would be a cool, breezy evening. after a stroll through the old town, we sat down to a quiche and fresh vegetable picnic in the park. the pond, lilly pads, birch trees, and countless families ducky families helped set the mood.

we rounded out the afternoon with chocolate marzipan gelato (what else?!) in the marketplace and a mandatory visit to the bremen city musician statue. i'm horrified by the number of times i've taken this absurd picture clutching this silly donkey's legs.

dropping holly off at the train station that evening, i felt a sense of accomplishment: i made bremen look cute!

granted, it wasn't just me. the weather was certainly a deal sealer. summers in bremen - when they aren't acting out of line with rain and wind and clouds - offer a nice mix of warm days complemented by cool, bright evenings. this soup is perfect for such a night. the spices add a bit of a kick without overpowering the squash, and the carrots add a much appreciated sweetness. you could also throw a potato (or a sweet potato!) in for a thicker base. personally, in the summer, i prefer a thinner soup and a hunk of ciabatta on the side for heartiness.

summer squash and leek soup

2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 onion, diced
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 leek, cleaned (!!) and diced
2 carrots, chopped roughly
3 deliciously plump summer squash, chopped roughly
5 cups vegetable broth
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp curry
1 tsp turmeric
salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
¼ cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
¼ cup fresh mint, roughly chopped

start by making your vegetable broth. i let some old carrot stubs and hunks of garlic and ginger simmer for a half hour to make mine, but you can also use pre-made stock or a powder.

when the stock is ready, take a large pot and heat the olive oil. add the garlic, onion, cumin seeds, and a pinch of salt. sauté until soft and pungent (about 10 minutes). add squash, carrots, leeks and stock, and bring to a boil. reduce heat and let simmer partially covered for about 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and almost falling apart. remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes (depending on your patience level!).

work in batches to puree the soup in a blender until smooth or just slightly chunky. transfer the puree back to a pot and thin with water if you like. add the ground cumin, coriander, curry, and turmeric. season with salt and pepper. simmer for 3-5 minutes.

chop fresh herbs and mix together in a bowl for garnish. serve soup immediately a dusting of herbs (and a small swig of olive oil, if so desired).