Zucchini-Basil Soup

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This recipe is simple and good. It’s the recipe you’ll want to use for all those giant zucchinis that are flooding your harvest baskets right about now. Add a handful of basil, onions, a few cloves of garlic and some butter and you’re good to go.

Sometimes I'll garnish my bowl with some cooked leeks or whatever happens to be growing in the garden for a little texture, but I usually eat it as-is, straight out of the pot, accompanied by thick slices of toasted sourdough bread drizzled with olive oil.

I should also mention that I make a double batch and have written the recipe as such because this soup keeps well in the refrigerator. Matt and I like to eat it cold for lunch the next day, especially if it's hot outside. If you want less or have less zucchini, feel free to halve the amounts.

Zucchini-Basil Soup
4 pounds zucchini and/or yellow crookneck squash
1 large onion, roughly chopped
4-6 tablespoons butter (yes, you can use less or sub for olive oil)
5-6 cloves garlic
4 cups water or broth/stock
1 handful of basil leaves, rinsed
Salt to taste

Rinse zucchini and remove ends. Slice lengthwise, and chop into 1-inch pieces. Set aside.

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic cloves, and cook until softened (about 5 minutes). Add the chopped zucchini and/or squash, and a pinch of salt, and cook for another five minutes. Add the water or broth/stock.

Bring up to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until zucchini is tender (about 25 minutes). Remove from heat.

Add the basil leaves. Puree using an immersion blender until completely smooth. Taste and add salt as necessary. Pour into bowls and serve warm with bread or crackers.

Note: Soup tastes amazing hot or cold.

Zucchini Bread

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Our zucchini harvest season is winding down, but we still have a few large specimens awaiting their fate on the kitchen counter. If the zucchini is small and tender, I’ll usually eat it without much ado: lightly sautéed and seasoned with salt and pepper. The larger ones, however, have a tougher skin, larger seeds and not as delicate of flavor, so those are usually reserved for batch after batch of zucchini bread which I’ll freeze and eat, or give away to friends and family throughout the year.
 

My zucchini bread recipe stems from a recipe given to my husband by his family. I’ve experimented and tweaked some things here and there, and have come up with my own well-worn and loved variation. Every kitchen witch has their own method, after all.
 

For me, the chopped dates are essential. The original recipe calls for chopped nuts, which are also delicious, but I reduce the sugar from its original 2 ¼ cup down to 1 ½ (or less), so the dates give it a little added sweetness. The real magic in the dates, however, is in their texture. They almost melt into the bread while it’s baking. 

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INGREDIENTS
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar (I usually only use 1 cup)
3 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped dates
 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease two standard-sized loaf pans.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. Mix in the vanilla and grated zucchini.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, ground cinnamon, grated nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Fold in the chopped dates.

Divide the batter evenly between the two loaf pans and place on the center rack in preheated oven. Bake for 60 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Let loaves cool for 20 minutes before removing from loaf pans. Serve immediately or store in aluminum foil. Loaves can be frozen and thawed at room temperature when ready to serve.