Some people collect unicorns, frogs, or Coke bottles
but I collect cookbooks.
I can’t help it.
I started in college and never stopped.
The first cookbooks I owned were published by Hermes House
a publisher whose catalog often shows up on discount tables at Barnes and Noble
(Borders always used to carry them;
now that they’re liquidating, maybe you can find them there even cheaper)
and at places like TJ Maxx and Ross in their teeny book sections.
Hermes House books were my starter books because they were cheap
less than $10 new
the recipes were easy
and they had a lot of pretty photos.
For a college student
it was perfect.
As my collection grew
I cooked from a larger range of books
and I ended up donating many of the books I started off with
(books with lots of photos and little else)
but I’ve held tightly onto the books from Hermes House.
The recipes in these inexpensive vibrant books are good.
They’re surprisingly good.
I have 10 or so of their books
and I’ve yet to try a bad recipe from any of them.
I will say that the only downside to their cookbooks
is that there is a small amount of recipe overlap among them
but not so much as to discourage me from buying them when I come across them.
(Cook’s Illustrated is the worst offender for recipe overlap in their books
in case you’re wondering.)
In most of Hermes House’s books
they use European terms for ingredients
aubergine for eggplant
courgette for zucchini
but that is interesting to me
not a mark against them.
When I made a meal plan for this week
I had down “zucchini soup and tomato tart” for Wednesday’s main meal
but was without a recipe for the zucchini soup.
Since I was up for a challenge
I first checked James Peterson’s Splendid Soups
a gorgeous and amazing (and labor intensive) book.
Peterson did not deign to offer a zucchini soup recipe
and even explained WHY in the book:
zucchini on its own is not assertive enough.
It made me wonder if he had ever eaten as much zucchini in a summer
as a few plants could put out.
That plant would show HIM unassertive.
THANKS FOR NOTHING, PETERSON.
I shelved Splendid Soups
saving the challenge for another day.
I turned to ol’ faithful
a Hermes House book
Soup: Superb Ways with a Classic Dish by Debra Mayhew.
It had a zucchini soup recipe
but I didn’t have the exact ingredients
and I didn’t want as much cream or butter in the soup as it called for
so I set the book beside my cutting board for inspiration and made lunch.
I’ll never forgive everyone for not introducing me to the combination of bleu cheese and zucchini earlier in my life.
I served the soup with a tomato tart from a Canal House issue from last year.
You can find the recipe here.
Recipe: Zucchini and Bleu Cheese Soup
Summary: Bleu cheese varies in strength so start with a small amount first and then add more gradually, tasting as you go. Remember you’re going to garnish with more cheese and you don’t want to overwhelm the ‘unassertive’ zucchini soup. At the blending stage of this soup, if using a food processor or standing blender, remove 3/4 of the soup and blend, then return it to the pot. This soup is supposed to be thick, so some texture and chunks are nice.
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tablespoom butter
- 1 medium mild-flavored onion, chopped
- 8 cups zucchini, thickly sliced (about 4 medium zucchini, or the 2 giant ones from your garden)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, crumbled
- 4 cups chicken stock or low sodium broth
- 1/4 cup crumbled bleu cheese
- 1/4 cup cream or whole milk
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- fresh oregano
- extra bleu cheese
- In a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, heat butter and oil until foamy.
- Add the onion and cook until softened and starting to brown, about 3 minutes.
- Add the zucchini and oregano. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir frequently until the zucchini begins to soften and brown, 8-10 minutes. Turn the heat down if things look like they’re cooking too fast.
- Add the stock to the pot. There should be enough stock to almost cover all of the zucchini. Add more or less as needed.
- Cover the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the zucchini is completely cooked through, about 20 minutes.
- Using your blending tool of choice (immersion blender, blender, or food processor), blend the soup until the pieces are broken down, but the soup is not perfectly smooth.
- Add the cheese, one tablespoon at a time, stirring after each addition until it is melted.
- Add the cream or milk and stir until well incorporated. Adjust the soup’s consistency by adding more stock or water if the soup is too thick.
- Adjust seasoning with salt and ground pepper.
- Serve soup in bowls, garnished with fresh oregano and bleu cheese.
Preparation time: 10 minute(s)
Cooking time: 45 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 4