Zucchini and Chard Soup with Basil

I don’t typically post recipes on the weekend.  Family life is full plus my publishing cycle centers on delivery day.  Occasionally there’s an exception though, when we cook up something truly special that makes use of the week’s delivery in a way we hadn’t anticipated earlier in the week.  A dish that warrants sharing.  This soup follows that pattern.  It was born of a crisper drawer loaded with leafy greens and a growing pile of zucchini, as the usual cadre of go-to recipes fell flat with my audience.  Something entirely different was needed.  A reach.  Despite its obviously healthy complexion, even those who wouldn’t normally give green soup a chance in this house were welcoming.

Zucchini and Chard Soup with Basil

This bright green soup is light and fresh tasting—a perfect destination for tender summer squash and healthy greens.  It’s dressed up before serving with a garnish of sautéed chard stems (no reason to toss them—they add a pleasant crunch to each smooth spoonful) and onions, with a few snips of chives and a dollop of sour cream.  The garnish is optional—if you prefer to keep things simple, just omit it.  Either way this healthy dish is likely to please, even the green vegetable averse.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • 2 1/4 cups chopped onion (divided)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound zucchini (about 4 medium), cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 1/2 bunch chard, stems removed and reserved (leaves roughly chopped, about 4 cups)
  • Salt
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
  • 1/3 cup basil leaves
  • 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Sour cream and chopped chives for serving (optional)

Method:

  1. Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add two cups onion and cook for a few minutes.  Then add garlic and zucchini.  Spread the squash out so that it’s nearly in a single layer across the bottom of the pan.  Allow it to cook on one side, then when lightly browned, stir and turn over.  Cook on the other side.  Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Continue cooking until squash and onions are colored with large spots of deep brown.  Stir as necessary to prevent burning and promote even browning.
  2. While vegetables are cooking, chop chard stems into small pieces.  Set aside.
  3. Add chard leaves to the skillet and cook until wilted and soft (about 5 minutes).  Transfer the cooked vegetables to a large saucepan.  Add the water and bring mixture to a boil.  Remove from heat, add the basil to the pan and purée with a handheld immersion blender.  Or purée in a food processor in batches (be very careful with the hot liquid).  Return to the saucepan and stir in cream if using.  Taste for salt and add more as needed.  Add lemon juice to taste, starting with one tablespoon.
  4. Using the same skillet (no need to rinse), heat a small amount of oil.  Add remaining onion along with chard stems to the pan.  Cook until soft and beginning to brown.
  5. Serve the soup in bowls, garnished with a dollop of sour cream, a spoonful of sautéed chard and onion and a sprinkling of chives.
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