I've tinkered with the recipe and lightened it up a bit and Dave declared the new version even better than the original. See my changes below in Variation #1. 6/28/13
I think I'm on to something here. There's so much zucchini coming out of the garden that I'm actually thinking up uses for it when I'm laying awake at 1:00 in the morning. I saw a recipe in the paper last weekend for zucchini soup which looked good, but I'm not crazy about hot soup at this time of the year. So I thought about how zucchini might be used in a cold soup. I was thinking about what seasonings I like with zucchini. One of my favorite zucchini dishes features anchovies, garlic, pine nuts, and vinegar. And then gazpacho came to mind. Garlic. Pine Nuts. Vinegar. Gazpacho? Yes, tomato gazpacho's older cousin, white gazpacho.
Tomato gazpacho is well known, but have you heard of (or better yet tasted) its lesser known white cousin? White gazpacho actually came first. The Spanish started making gazpacho long before the tomato hit their shores. It is typically a mixture of garlic, olive oil, bread, water, and vinegar. Blend in almonds and garnish with grapes and you have Ajo Blanco. There's all sorts of variations on the theme these days, I love to make it with some melon blended into the mix and used as the garnish. Garlic. Pine Nuts. Vinegar. Gazpacho!
Not only do I think about zucchini in the middle of the night, but I also stare at dozens of Meyer lemons every time I look out my kitchen window. Oh yeah, Meyer lemon has got to be good with garlic, pine nuts, and vinegar - oh, and let's not forget the zucchini.
If you've adopted a diet that's low in grains and sugar, and high in healthy fats, such as I have, this soup will fit the bill. The zucchini provides the texture that bread does in the traditional white gazpacho and the nuts and olive oil provide a lot of satisfying richness. Add the avocado garnish and oh my, oh yum.
A note about Meyer lemons. They are sweeter than "regular" lemons, both the peel and the juice. Even the white pith of the skin is sweet. You can thickly peel them for this recipe, don't worry about the white stuff, it's good. If you can't get Meyer lemons, don't substitute thickly peeled regular lemons, they are probably too bitter. Try the zest of a regular lemon or just leave it out. I think a good substitute for the lemon peel would be a lemon flavored olive oil either blended in or drizzled on as a garnish.
And a note about vinegar. I used a Spanish moscatel wine vinegar that is very fruity and not too sharp. If you use white wine vinegar, especially if you are using regular lemons, add it a couple of teaspoons at a time until the soup tastes to your liking.
Zucchini ends up giving the gazpacho texture and a beautiful light green glow, it doesn't really have a distinct flavor. Don't skip the step to chill the steamed zucchini, the chilling in ice water will set the bright green color and shorten the time it takes to thoroughly chill the soup. The flavor in this soup is predominated by the pine nuts and lemon. I think toasted skinless almonds would be a good alternative to pine nuts, perhaps even cashews, maybe even pepitas (although the color probably won't be as pretty). Next time I'm trying almonds, I will be making this again.
1 1/2 pounds zucchini, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices
1/2 cup lightly toasted pine nuts (4-5 min. @ 350ºF), cooled*
2 to 3 cloves very fresh garlic, less if your garlic is old
1/4 (about 2.5 oz.) sweet onion, such as Vidalia, cut in pieces**
1 Meyer lemon, peels removed with a vegetable peeler, and juiced
1 1/2 cups ice water, or more
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, your best fruity oil
1 to 2 tablespoons Spanish moscatel vinegar
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
(tomato, and/or shrimp, and/or roasted sweet peppers might be nice)
Spanish smoked paprika
Steam the zucchini for 5 minutes until crisp tender. Cool immediately in a large bowl of ice water. Drain.
Put the peeled garlic, onion, lemon peels, and pine nuts into a blender and blend until chopped. Add the zucchini and water to the container and start blending. Pour in the olive oil and lemon juice and continue to blend. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon vinegar, blend until smooth, but don't over blend or the soup may start to get warm (especially a problem in a VitaMix). Add more water if you desire a thinner soup or want to serve it from a drinking glass. Taste for seasonings, add more salt and vinegar if desired. Chill thoroughly. Taste for seasonings again, cold lessens the flavor of the seasonings. Serve in chilled bowls or cups, garnished with chopped avocado, slivered basil, and a dash of paprika.
Makes 5 cups
*next time I think I'll try 1/3 cup pine nuts, the flavor almost started to overwhelm before I finished slurping a bowlful
**maybe a bit more onion next time to balance out the pine nuts
Variation #1, 6/28/13
Substitute 1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds for the pine nuts
Increase sweet onion to 4 oz. (maybe a bit less next time)
Use the skin of only 1/2 of a Meyer lemon
Use 2 measured tablespoons of meyer lemon juice instead of just the juice of one lemon
Increase ice water to 2 cups
Use 2 full tablespoons of moscatel vinegar
Change garnish to a mix of baby shrimp and chopped fresh tomato seasoned with salt, pepper, and meyer lemon juice
Thought for the next variation. I would like to make a tree nut free version so I'm thinking of using toasted coconut or perhaps fresh coconut. First I'll try it with the ususal seasonings, and then I may take it for an Asian spin - fish sauce and lime?
Another Variation - June 29, 2014
Same as Variation #1 but changed the garnish to chopped grilled sweet onions and roasted sweet corn kernels seasoned with moscatel vinegar and slivered basil.