Curry Zucchini Soup: A Taste of the Loire Valley
I’m just back from my second annual gluten-free summer vacation to France.
This year, we decided to visit the Loire Valley, since I figured what better time to visit a region renowned for its wineries and soft goat cheeses than when you’re pregnant? Of course, I won’t lead you to believe for one second that my experience was in any way ascetic; even without the bread and wine, I happily, deliciously and easily found an extra 600 calories a day (and then some!) for the twins. And even though it involved bending numerous pregnancy food safety dictates, I ended the week a bit heavier than when I started and no worse for the wear.
The cuisine in the Loire Valley was simple and delicious, featuring locally-grown produce in season, like strawberries, cherries and zucchini. Locally-grown mushrooms also played a starring role, and locally-caught pike perch (fish) and locally-made goat cheeses are ubiquitous.
While our meals were quite varied, the one dish that kept resurfacing was some version of a curried zucchini puree. At La Licorne restaurant in Fontevraud L’Abbaye, it showed up as a luxurious, warm,
mousse-like amuse bouche that was clearly spiked with a generous bit of creme fraiche. At a small tapas cafe (Le 7) elsewhere in town, it arrived as a thick, cold puree meant for spreading on bread–almost like a zucchini-curry hummus. But the last–and by far most successful– variation on the theme was a cold, pureed soup served by our lovely and talented hosts at Le Moulin Brégeon, possibly one of the most idyllic places on the planet.
Moulin Brégeon’s Curry Zucchini Soup
This recipe was graciously provided by Bernard at Moulin Bregeon (a man whose talents, incidentally, would put Martha Stewart to shame. It’s almost worth the trip just to sample his homemade elderflower syrup or cherry jam). After having tasted the cool soup, which was incredibly refreshing after a long, hot day of touring around the region, I expected the recipe to be a considerably more involved and nuanced affair than it turned out to be. The actual process is astonishingly simple, and really highlights the difference that locally-grown, fresh ingredients make from a flavor perspective. In our case, the zucchinis used for the soup were picked from the inn’s garden just 3 hours before dinner, and we watched Chef Pascal clip some chives and pansies for the garnish just moments before we were seated for dinner. Bernard emphasized the importance of using small, younger zucchini for this recipe–about 6 oz each– rather than the monster-sized zucchini we’re used to buying in the U.S. He also mentioned that the trick to the texture is really blending the soup until it is a very smooth and creamy with no chunks or visible pieces; this gives such a velvety and rich effect without using any cream whatsoever. For my vegan readers, I’m sure a vegetable broth would substitute just fine for the chicken broth. While I’ve never much been one for cold soups (or making soup in the summer), I must say that this dish won me over; it’s a lovely substitute for a salad to start off a summer meal, or would make a fine half of a light soup-and-salad lunch.
One large, peeled onion cut fine
2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons curry powder
4 young zucchinis (~26 ounces total, or about 1.7 lbs), washed and cut in fine rounds
~4 cups (1 liter) of chicken broth
- Pour the oil in a big pot, throw in the onion, the curry and a pinch of salt. Brown until the onion is tender (3 or 4 minutes).
- Add broth and zucchinis, cover and reduce heat, cook for 20 minutes.
- Blend until the soup is creamy.
- You can eat this soup hot or cold; you can also add more curry if you like it spicier.
- Garnish with fresh chives if desired
Approximate nutrition information per serving (this is so un-French to add, but I know many of you are watching your weight and counting carbs, so I hope I will not be considered too gauche for doing so): ~120 calories, 10g carbohydrate (of which ~2.5g is fiber), 6.5g protein and 8g fat (the healthy, unsaturated kind). This is a very diabetic friendly recipe (less than one carbohydrate exchange per serving), so long as you don’t go and start mopping up the leftover soup streaks in your empty bowl with lots of spongy bread! (You will surely be tempted to do so).
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