life-changing zucchini soup


perhaps you are asking yourself, why on god's green earth would anyone be making soup – and we are talking hot soup here, not chilled refreshing gazpacho – not only in the middle of summer, but in the middle of the worst heat wave this country has seen in a long, long time?

well, i didn't leave the house yesterday.  the somm and i cranked up the ac, lowered the blinds, settled our tushes into the couch and took shelter. 

i didn't even go to the gym.  its getting serious.

but back to the soup.  a friend sent me the recipe.  i thanked her.  i was close to moving on. i'm not a soup person.  my mom – she is all about the soup. soup just doesn't always get it done for me.

then my friend sent a one sentence email: the zucchini soup will change your life.

talk about getting serious.  i'm in!

we're going to start with some onions.


diced onion is going to get up close and personal with more butter and olive oil than i usually use (sorry honey!) and some thyme and bay.  i took a picture, frankly it didn't look as appetizing as it smelled.  butter.  mmm.

add your chunked zucchini and chicken stock.  i used some homemade stock from the freezer.  the sommelier came that much closer to finding the ice cream sandwiches. 

once it's all cooked up together, you blend it up.  you know, in your blender.  or use one of those fancy immersion blender wands.  i don't have one, although some kind person did buy me one for my wedding.  i had registered for it and everything.  i thought it might inspire me to make soup.  i had visions of sharing soup recipes with my mother.  then it arrived and i looked at it and realized that, really, i'm not a soup person.  i returned it and put the money towards filling out my pots and pans set.  my sincere apologies.  but seriously, i'm using the hell out of those pots and pans.

soup therapy session over!  time for the croutons!  you're going to need lots of basil.


i keep mine in a vase.  with my flowers.


god, i love the woman who sells the flowers at my farmers market.  she puts basil IN THE ARRANGEMENTS sometimes.  purple basil – do you see it back there?  love. it.  so does manchego.  check him out surveying his domain.

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moments after this photo was taken, he started gnawing on the flower arrangements. 

anyway.  i saved the basil from the gatito.  and let me pass along this advice: do not skip the croutons.  they are buttery, basily cubes of goodness.


let them get all brown and toasty.


so good.  i am that much closer to being a soup person.

and mom – you should try this soup.  here's the recipe!

Zucchini Soup with Basil Croutons

from Food & Wine Magazine


  • 3 tbs butter
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 3 celery ribs, peeled and diced (I didn't have celery.  I didn't miss it.)
  • 1 medium onion, minced (I may have subbed extra onion for the missing celery.  But I can never tell what a "medium" onion is supposed to be.)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp chopped thyme leaves
  • 1 1/2 lb zucchini (F&W said to use little guys, I used two big dudes. Eh.)
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • Salt & Pepper
  • More basil

In a large heavy saucepan, melt the butter in the olive oil. Add the celery, onion, bay leaf and thyme and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 20 minutes. Increase the heat to moderate. Stir in the zucchini and stock, season with salt and pepper and simmer the soup until the zucchini is soft, about 10 minutes. Discard the bay leaf.


  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1/3 cup basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 cups-ish country bread, cut into 1/2 ince dice
  • Salt & Pepper

In a large skillet, melt the butter over moderately high heat. Stir in the chopped basil, then add the bread cubes and toss to coat with the butter. Season the bread cubes with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes, or until the bread cubes are lightly toasted and crispy. Transfer to a plate.


Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth. This is important – soup expand when it gets hot and blended.  Leave a little air hole at the top of your blender.  Enough for steam, not enough to splatter soup everywhere.  You'll be sad.

Return the soup to the saucepan and reheat gently. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls, top with the croutons and basil leaves and serve.

more. cherries.

i did manage to pit and freeze a good pound of sour cherries this week. remember these?


some day, god willing, i'll live in a house with a separate freezer for crazy things like summer cherries, and chicken stock, and, well, everything i want in a freezer that otherwise drives the sommelier crazy.  because when there are frozen chicken breasts and cookie dough and leftover adorable little individual servings of browned onion kugel that i just couldn't eat or throw away and that are just AMAZING still if you just microwave them and then you don't have to cook for just yourself on an average wednesday, it can be awfully hard to find the cherry garcia frozen yogurt.  that is really all the sommelier wants out of his freezer.  can't say i blame him.

BUT, if he ever does make it back to the sweatbox known as dc, now that i have frozen the cherries, i'll be able to recreate this for him:

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cherry clafouti!  continuing on this week's theme of summer food that is fun to say.  clafouti!  rhymes with booty!  another yummy french dish. 

in addition to being a very yummy, custardy dessert, clafouti has an entertaining wikipedia entry

"The dish's name derives from Occitan clafotís (Occitan pronunciation: [klafuˈti]), from the verb clafir, meaning "to fill" (implied: "the batter with cherries"). Clafoutis apparently spread throughout France during the 19th century."

clafouti: to fill one's batter with cherries.

i also filled my batter with lemony goodness.

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i trew in some vanilla and almond extract too.  and left the cherry pits in.  apparently that is the "authentic" way to do so, and i'd already thumbed my nose at julia over the ratatouille this week, plus it's supposed to taste almondy-er.  it worked out ok for me.  just be sure to warn your dinner guests!

Cherry Clafouti

  • Largeish handful of cherries – tart or sweet, with or without pits. 
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup white sugar (maybe less for sweet cherries)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 lemon's worth of zest
  • Turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Warm your milk in a saucepan – bring to a simmer but don't boil.  If you boil it start over.  No one likes burnt milk.  Unless it's for dulche de leche.  But that's not what we're doing here.

Whisk together the rest of the ingredients.  It'll be a little sticky.  SUPER DUPER slowly, whisk in the milk.  Don't scramble your eggs!

Cover the bottom of four ramekins with one layer of cherries (fill ramekin with cherries!). Pour custard batter over cherries (fill cherry-filled ramekin with custard!).

Pop in the oven for about 20 minutes.  Then sprinkle with turbinado sugar and keep baking for another 5-10 minutes until set and golden brown.



cherry crumble bars


we are hitting that point of summer where i start to get into real trouble at the farmers market.  everything looks so good!  i want it all! 

it’s a double whammy when the sommelier goes out of town on the weekend.  there is no one to check the madness.  no one to question whether we really need TWO QUARTS of sour cherries.


i mean, isn’t the answer to that always YES at the end of cherry season? 

but it didn’t stop at the cherries.  while you check out my haul, try to guess the number of humans i’ll be feeding this week.


the answer?  me.  just me. 

dear sommelier: please come home.  yes, i miss you.  but also i bought a bunch of kale larger than a small child.


didja see rio lurking amidst the produce?  let’s see a close up.


can haz fahmarz mahket! (hat tip jaime)

this is the point where she runs back and hides under the bed.

back to the cherries.  i bought a cherry pitter! 


file that under other things i purchase when the sommelier is gone: excessive amounts of produce, single-use kitchen implements, shoes . . . .

let me tell you though, that cherry pitter is unbelievable.  so much fun.  i had purple fingers for so many years for no good reason.

i have many plans for these cherries.  luckily i bought TWO QUARTS.  the first round went into these:


yeah, cherry crumble bars.  top notch.

sour cherries + lemon + butter + brown sugar + oaty crumbly goodness = winning.

plus, this recipe – itself a bastardization of several other recipes – is a great basis for all kinds of fruity, crumbly goodness.  i really liked the tartness of the sour cherries, but any other type of summer fruit would be good.  reduce the brown sugar and oats for a blueberry crumb bar like smitten kitchen’s original.  or swap the lemon for some ginger for a peachy crumble bar.  or add almonds and apricots!


Cherry Crumble Bars

adapted primarily from Smitten Kitchen

  • 1/2 cup white sugar (3 1/2 oz)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (3 3/4 oz)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (12 3/4 oz)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks or 8 ounces) cubed
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 to 1 cup oats
  • 4 cups fresh sour cherrys – pitted and halved or not as you like it
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch

Preheat oven to 375.

Stir the sugars, flour, baking powder, salt and zest together.  Add butter and work into flour with a fork, pastry cutter or your fingers until mostly incorporated, then add egg and finish incorporating.  It should look kind of like coarse meal, but a little shaggier. 

Press half of mixture into bottom of a 13 by 9 in pan. Add oats to the remaining half for topping.

Mix cherries with lemon juice, 1/2 cup sugar and corn starch.  Pour over bottom crust. 

Sprinkle reserved oats mixture on top.  Bake for 30 to 45 minutes until the topping is golden brown and the cherries are bubbling.  It shouldn’t be too wiggly in the middle – it’ll firm up a bit.  But mine stayed a bit gooey.  Which I love.  But not everyone does, so just watch it, ok?

strawberry coconut scones

summer means strawberries, right?  check out these bad boys.

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i do have a confession.  i bought these strawberries at the tarjay.  and we are just on the wrong side of strawberry season.  they looked so red and yummy.  but check out the inside:

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yeah.  sadness.   but nothing that can't be solved by sugar and butter.  into scones they go!

scones are one of those baked goods that people have very particular feelings about.  and by that, i mean extreme animosity towards scones sold by certain omnipresent coffee shops with green signage.  i have no such prejudices against dessert masquerading as a breakfast item.  

these scones, however, may also cause some heart burn.  they aren't super flakey or biscuity.  although they have just the right hint of sweetness for proper breakfast food.  and they are profoundly cakey and soft in texture.  this, i think, is because they don't have buttermilk?  i really like me a tangy buttermilk scone.  i know you can make buttermilk out of regular milk.  but i didn't.  i just made these:

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what?  i forgot to mention my last minute brilliant idea to add coconut?  toasted coconut.  makes everything better.  let's get started.  lazy scones for subpar strawberries.  aren't you glad you kept scrolling?

chop your strawberries.  weigh your dry ingredients.

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add cold, cold butter (another victory . . . someday i'll remember to presoften butter, someday).  get your hands in there until it looks like this.

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then eggs, then milk (whole if you've got it!) and STRAWBERRIES.  don't they look so much better all chopped up?

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no, you can still tell.  sigh.

ah, but this is much better.

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and better.  milk wash action shot!

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coconut.  pre-toasted.

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what are you talking about a missing scone?  there's no missing scone. just go make these already.

Strawberry Coconut Scones

Largely based on this recipe from Gourmet

  • 2 1/2 cup or 10 5/8 oz all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup or 1 3/4 oz white sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, chopped in largish chunks
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup whole milk, plus a little extra for the wash
  • 1 cup chopped strawberries
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut, give or take

Preheat your oven to 425°F.  If you don't have lovely silpat, grease up your baking sheet.

Whisk together your dry ingredients – flour through salt.  Add the butter and mix in with your fingers until it looks like coarse meal.  Stir in eggs and 1/4 cup milk until just combined, then carefully fold in strawberries. 

Flour your work surface.  If you want big scones, dump out all your dough.  If you're taking it to work, like I did, start with half the dough.  Knead lightly and shape into a round.  Use your rolling pin if you like thinner scone.  Cut into slices, like pie.  Or pizza!

Transfer your scones to the baking sheet.  Brush with milk.  Sprinkle with coconut!  Or turbinado sugar!  Whatever your heart desires.

Bake about 10-12 minutes for smaller scones, or closer to 15 for larger.  Eat warm with salted butter straight off the baking sheet.  Best the same day.

s is for scape

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normally, i'm not one to go for the funky at the farmer's market.  kohlrabi?  not so much.  kale?  tame to the rest of the world, but only just entering my regular vegetable rotation.

this is what i buy.

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oh, wait.  this is a food post. but, i mean . . . how gorg are these flowers!  there is one stand at my farmers market that makes the most beautiful bouquets.  they totally get my color palette.

anyway, back to business.  check these out.

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funky little wax beans.  they go great with these:

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i did not grow these.  my cherry tomato plant thus far is barren.  i blame the home depot.  that is another story. 

also, do you use a tomato knife?  my husband, aka the sommelier, aka my knife enabler, bought one for me.  it works really well.  plus it's red!  and it has a nifty sheath.  which is a great word.  sheath.

green beans (or squiggly little yellow wax beans) + cherry tomatoes + feta + vinaigrette = one of my favorite parts of summer.

but, garlic scapes.  many lovely bloggers i drool over have been all over making scape pesto.  and isn't pesto just like vinaigrette on steroids?

plus, how cool are scapes? 

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did you know they are the top bits of garlic? 

i threw about a cup of scape, cut into 2 inch segments, into the food processor.  with about a third of a cup of walnuts.

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add lots of parmesan.  maybe a 1/3 cup olive oil.  most recipes i saw call for a lot more olive oil.  but i live with a health nut.  i didn't tell him about the parmesan.  instead, i subbed in juice of one lemon.

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action shot!

plus salt and pepper.  and, i would recommend some basil.  the scape needs some help mellowing out.  i ended up adding a splash of cream (REALLY don't tell the health nut husband).  and more parmesan. 

toss the pesto with blanched beans and halved cherry tomatoes.  couldn't be simpler. 


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and, possibly even better the next day.  or, you know, three days later tossed with mesculen for lunch at work.  that's how i roll.

plus, there was extra pesto.  so i rubbed it all over a chicken. i got it up under the skin.  then i roasted it.

hello, lover.

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but, isn't there something slightly inappropriate looking about a roast chicken?  or at least, this roast chicken.  it looks like it needs to be trussed.  but i am too lazy to truss. i had a cooking instructor once sit a chicken up and made it dance and wave to us.  it was a little disturbing.  not to mention that we followed that the "meet your chicken" moment was followed by a "debone your chicken" moment. 

moral of the story?  don't get too attached.  chicken is just too yummy.  especially when infused with garlicy pestoy goodness. 

Garlic Scape Pesto

  • 1 cup scapes, chopped into 2 inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 to 3/4 cup olive oil, to taste
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4+ cup shredded parmesan
  • salt and pepper
  • splash cream, optional
  • 1/2 cup basil

In a food processor, grind scapes, walnuts and basil (if using).  Add olive oil and lemon juice until creamy.   Transfer to bowl.  Stir in parmesan and salt and petter.  Taste.  If garlic overwhelms your senses and you love it, you're done.  If garlic overwhelms your senses and you chug a diet coke, add cream until you can deal.