French country cooking meets a mid-century American past-time.
Yesterday I made one of my favorite summer soups: a zucchini vichyssoise, loosely based on Ina Garten’s recipe from her book, Barefoot in Paris. It’s an old stand by in my kitchen during the summer months for two reasons: 1) it’s a great way to use up all the zucchini that’s coming out of the garden and 2) it’s delicious! It looks lovely garnished with green ribbons of julienned zucchini or with fresh snipped chives, as Ina suggests in the book, but yesterday, as I stood at the stove and watched it simmer I realized that the soup alone wasn’t going to satisfy my craving for something cool and fresh the way it usually does. It was very hot – we broke records for the afternoon high temperature – and I was craving something zesty, fresh and crunchy. I thought back to when I was a child – my grandfather grew huge labyrinths of the sweetest corn in a field next to the potager. My grandmother used to make a summer-y corn relish with it. Having grown up in Chicago where her father played baseball for the Cubs when they were still called the Chicago White Stockings, she was a big fan of hot dogs, and she would serve the relish in generous portions dolloped on our dogs while we watched the Cubs on TV. It was a Sunday institution during baseball season. We might miss church but she never missed a game.
Interestingly, Vichyssoise is not a traditional French soup at all. Rather it was created by the head chef of the Ritz-Carlton in New York City from the memory of a potato soup, cooled with milk, he had growing up in Vichy France long before the infamous events of WWII.
A cool French soup, a NYC hotel kitchen, an American past-time, a hot dog condiment. Isn’t it funny how the foods we ate as children find their ways back into our culinary repertoire in various aberrations and evolutions?
(adapted from Ina Garten’s Zucchini Vichyssoise, Barefoot in Paris)
2 large leeks, just the white & light green parts, cleaned & chopped
2 TBSP olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
8 small white potatoes, chopped
2 medium zucchinis, chopped
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tsp salt (more or less to taste)
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 TBSP heavy cream
In a large pot sauté the leeks in the oil over medium heat until they just begin to soften. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute longer. Add the potatoes & zucchini and cook, stirring, for another 5 minutes. Add the broth, salt & pepper and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Using an immersion blender or a food mill, purée the soup until smooth. Stir in the cream and cool to room temperature. Cover and place in the refrigerator until chilled.
Serve chilled with a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil. Top each bowl with corn relish.
Quick Sweet Corn Relish
1/2 cup raw apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp celery seed
1/4 tsp mustard seed
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic, minced
10 oz organic corn (cut from the cob or frozen)
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
In a small sauce pan bring the vinegar, sugar, salt, celery seed, mustard seed, bay leaf & garlic to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the corn and bring back to a simmer. Cook for 3 – 4 minutes.
Place the chopped pepper and onion in a heat safe bowl. Pour the hot corn and vinegar mixture over the vegetables and stir to combine. Cool to room temperature, then place in the fridge to cool completely, until ready to serve.