Testing and Adapting a Recipe
I am not usually one to follow a recipe someone else has created. I like finding inspiration from flipping through magazines, cookbooks especially vintage/antique, passed down family recipes, and traveling and tasting foods from all over the world.
I recently flipped through a September issue of Food and Wine magazine and in it I spotted their zucchini soup with creme fraiche and cilantro. In Southern cooking, soups are gumbo, corn and crab bisque, chili, chicken and dumplings….A smooth creamy vegetable soup is not very popular besides a tomato soup. While visiting Dave (former Masterchef contestant) in Boston, he made my family and I dinner. One of the components was a watercress soup. I had never worked with watercress because it is not available in the grocery stores where I live. What I loved about his soup was that it had a creamy mouthfeel without containing a lot of cream and being thick. When I had a chance to visit a market in Boston, I bought watercress and tried to create his soup with my own twist. To replace some of the cream, I cooked kolhrabi and pureed it with the watercress mixture. I only added a touch of cream at the end. This new venture was fun. Going back to the zucchini soup I had seen in the magazine, it has the same look as the watercress soup but zucchini is the star.
Being one to not follow someone else’s recipe, I decided I would test it from start to finish for one of the first times.
Food and Wine’s Zucchini Soup with Creme Fraiche and Cilantro
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large leek, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced
- 1 large poblano—cored, seeded and thinly sliced
- 5 medium zucchini (2 1/4 pounds), cut into 1-inch rounds
- 2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 small Parmesan cheese rind (optional)
- One 6-ounce bunch cilantro, stemmed and coarsely chopped, plus whole leaves for garnish
- 1 cup crème fraîche
- In a large pot, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the leek and poblano and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the zucchini and garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the chicken broth and Parmesan rind and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until the zucchini is very tender and no longer bright green, about 15 minutes. Discard the Parmesan rind and add the chopped cilantro.
- Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor until very smooth. Return the soup to the pot, whisk in the crème fraîche and reheat gently if necessary. Season the soup with salt and pepper and ladle into bowls. Garnish the soup with cilantro leaves and serve.
Zucchini Soup with feta cream served alongside a kale salad
Already with the name of my soup you can see I did not stick with the recipe. I did try.
Sauteing the leeks and poblano.
I was following the recipe exactly and then I began deviating when the recipe called for 1 quart of chicken broth. I had chicken stock on hand and I decided it would add more flavor. I added 3 cups instead of 4 so to not “water down” the vegetable flavor. I also thought the additional cup would thin the soup too much. I continued following the rest of the recipe.
When pureeing the soup I noticed that the cilantro was an essential component in lending a bright green hue to the soup. The last ingredient the recipe called for was creme fraiche. I do not have access to this ingredient at any grocery stores near me. I had buttermilk in my refrigerator. The buttermilk would add a Southern touch and lend the soup some creaminess and sour and acidic notes. I incorporated the buttermilk in the blender for a smooth consistency.
Food and Wine suggests serving the soup warm or cold. I served mine warm with a spoonful of feta cream drizzled over. The feta cream I made by blending the white top layer of canned coconut milk with crumbled feta cheese. I wanted to add a salty finishing touch to the soup. Without deviating too much from the original recipe, my thoughts on the flavor was that it was light and crisp. The flavor is simple. I could taste the zucchini and light sweetness of the leeks. I think the soup needed a little zing. It fell a little flat. My addition of the feta cream bumped up the saltiness which was a nice addition. Some simple changes to the recipe to amp the flavor would be to roast the vegetables to enhance their flavor and add more sweetness.
What I learned from testing this recipe was that it is really hard for me to not put my touch on a recipe.