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A&E >  Cooking

This chilled zucchini soup is filling and creamy thanks to its secret ingredient – beans

Beans add creaminess, as well as protein, to this summer soup.  (Tom McCorkle/For the Washington Post)
Beans add creaminess, as well as protein, to this summer soup. (Tom McCorkle/For the Washington Post)
By Ellie Krieger Special to the Washington Post

Chilled vegetable soup might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think “comfort food,” but this bowl of creamy goodness dishes up just that. It’s soothingly smooth, belly-filling and tasty in an easygoing, mellow way.

On a hot day, this soup offers the cooling relief of a shady tree, and knowing how nourishing and healthful it is brings another layer of contentment.

It also happens to be an excellent way to use up what, by this time of year, is usually an overflow of zucchini from your garden or the market.

To make the soup, you start by softening onion and garlic in olive oil, followed by sliced zucchini and broth, then simmer until the vegetable is tender.

I am partial to chicken broth, but you can certainly use the vegetable version to make the soup vegetarian. Next, add what I suppose could be called the secret ingredient: a can of white beans.

Once blended in, you’d never know there were beans in the soup, and yet their contribution makes it thick and creamy. The beans also add protein, fiber and minerals that turn the soup into a meal-in-a-bowl. Simple, fresh seasonings – tarragon, lemon zest and salt and pepper – give the soup a light, summery flavor.

The finished soup is chilled completely and then blended until smooth with a cup of yogurt, which enhances the creamy texture as well as delivers a pleasant, gentle note of acidity.

The result is an elegant, nutrient-packed summer soup that is as satisfying as it is refreshing.

Chilled Creamy Zucchini Soup With Tarragon

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium yellow onion (about 8 ounces), chopped

3 cloves garlic, sliced

1 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt, plus more to taste

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 pounds zucchini (6 medium) halved lengthwise and sliced across

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth

One 15-ounce can no-salt-added great northern or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves, plus more for garnish

1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest, or more to taste

1 cup plain Greek yogurt (low-fat or whole)

In a large pot over medium-low heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until just tender, about 2 minutes. Add the zucchini and broth, increase the heat to high and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is very soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in the beans, tarragon and lemon zest and remove from the heat.

Let the soup cool completely, then add the yogurt and, using an immersion blender (or a regular blender), puree until smooth. Taste and season with additional salt, if desired. Transfer to a lidded container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until thoroughly chilled.

When ready to serve, ladle the soup into individual bowls and garnish each with a few tarragon leaves.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings (makes about 12 cups)

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