out of season comfort food

One of the things I was most looking forward to when I moved to Brooklyn (other than everything) was that I’d finally be able to host the BK friends who’ve had me over for so many delicious meals over the last few years…but who I never really wanted to ask to trek to Harlem for dinner. So I was thrilled to have two of my girlfriends over for dinner just a few weeks after I moved in, and had a lot of fun planning what to make. I decided on a family favorite soup that’s perfect for that part of summer where zucchini seems to be everywhere, and a baked goat cheese dip recipe from Martha Stewart that I had pulled out of a magazine a few months earlier. It would be easy, comforting, and perfect for a mini dinner party.

What I hadn’t considered was that comforting of the creamy soup and baked cheese variety is maybe not what one wants in the middle of the summer in Brooklyn. And that having both the oven and stovetop going when your guests walk into your one air conditioner apartment in July is maybe not ideal hostess behavior. Luckily for me, I have fantastic friends–they laughed, kindly, about how ridiculously steamy the kitchen was and both assured me that they had just been craving “fall food,” being sick of light summer fare. Like I said, fantastic friends.

Happily, the dip (easiest recipe ever: preheat the oven to 350, crumble half of a 4 oz log of goat cheese into a shallow oven-proof dish, pour on enough marinara sauce–I used storebought–to just cover the cheese, sprinkle the rest of the goat cheese on top, and bake for 20-25 minutes until everything is browned and bubbly) was delicious, the soup tasted just as it does when my mother makes it, and we had enough rosé wine to stave off heat stroke. All in all an un-seasonal success, with the addition of one very seasonally appropriate element: the ice cream sandwiches I had made and tucked into the freezer earlier that day, using fresh baked Toll House cookies and vanilla ice cream. A saving grace for any slightly ill-planned meal.

One of the best things about this dinner was how many more meals it made easy: I froze two portions of soup, and cooked the leftover squash (I always seem to buy too much–looking at squash and guessing how many cups I can get out of it is not one of my strong suits) and onion in the rest of the jarred sauce, then froze that as well. And what was left of the goat cheese dip made a fabulous pasta sauce the next day.

Zucchini Soup
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 tbs butter
4 cups cubed yellow squash
5 cups cubed zucchini
2 cans chicken broth (my mom insists on Campbell’s, I’m more flexible)
1/2 pint heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
lemon slices and fresh basil for garnish

In a large pot, saute onion in butter until soft. Add both kinds of squash and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce to a simmer and cook until squash is tender. Let cool slightly, then blend–I use an immersion blender, but you can also use a blender. Return to pot, add about half of the cream and salt and pepper to taste…and keep on adding til you love it! Top each bowl with a thin lemon slice and basil (I always just do lemon). Can be served hot or cold.

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