Meatless Monday: Spicy Zucchini, Pepper and Potato Soup

Make a pot of spicy zucchini soup and freeze the leftovers for the months when zucchini is no longer in the market.
By: Michelle Buffardi
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Meatless Monday is a global movement, a way of life. It’s not a campaign to turn everyone in the world vegetarian or vegan; in fact, many involved are meat-lovers. Eating less meat has been proven to reduce the risk of disease, curb obesity and has important environmental impacts, too. Will you join us in giving up meat, just for one day a week?

There's a new farmers' market in my neighborhood and I was so excited for my first visit that I bought way too much of everything: 8 bunches of basil, 2 pounds of goat cheese, a giant loaf of bread and 6 zucchini. I had a plan for the basil: I made pesto and froze it; it'll last me through the fall. But the zucchini was an impulse buy. I can't get enough of it, even though I do get enough of it. My mom grows zucchini in her garden and shares it with me, I get loads of it in my weekly CSA and yet I buy several pieces every time I visit the farmers' market.

When I'm flush with zucchini in the summer months, I eat a raw zucchini salad every day (no joke) -- shredded zucchini, olive oil, lemon, salt, pepper and a few crumbles of goat cheese. I make zucchini frittata, stuffed zucchini and pasta with zucchini. That stuff is all great now, but I wanted a recipe that I could make during zucchini season and freeze it for when I can't get them anymore.

Rachael Ray's Spicy Zucchini, Pepper and Potato Soup fit the bill -- it's loaded with zucchini, spicy peppers, tomatoes and potatoes. Eat a bowl right away, like I did with some goat cheese and basil on top and some crusty bread alongside, and freeze the rest for when zucchini isn't garden-fresh.

Spicy Zucchini, Pepper and Potato Soup

Serves 4
1 large red frying pepper or red bell pepper, for roasting
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 to 1 1/4 pounds small zucchini, very thinly sliced into discs

2 chile peppers, Fresno or other, tops removed, seeded and sliced into very thin rings

2 mild green frying peppers (cubanelle), thinly sliced into rings
1 medium yellow or red onion, peeled and thinly sliced into rings

5 to 6 baby Yukon gold potatoes, very thinly sliced into discs (like potato chips)

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
A few sprigs thyme, leaves picked and finely chopped

2 pounds peeled fresh heirloom tomatoes, chopped OR 1 (28-ounce) can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes, stewed tomatoes or chunky-style crushed tomatoes

2 to 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Fresh sweet basil leaves, shredded or torn, for garnish
Crusty bread or fresh baguette, for serving

Char sweet frying pepper over open flame on stovetop or under hot broiler with oven door cracked to allow steam to escape. Once the skin is evenly charred and blackened all-over, place the pepper in a bowl and cover with plastic until pepper is cool enough to handle. Wipe or scrape the char off the pepper removing the skins. Seed the pepper and thinly slice.

Heat 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil in a deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium to medium-high heat. When the oil ripples, add the zucchini, chiles, frying peppers, onions, potatoes, garlic, salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme and saute the vegetables until tender-crisp, 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes and roasted peppers and allow the tomatoes to breakdown a few minutes. Stir in enough stock to desired consistency - as thin or thick as you like.

Cool completely and store for make-ahead meal.

Reheat over moderate heat, stirring occasionally. Serve in shallow bowls with shredded or torn sweet basil and crusty, warm bread.

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