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Our friend Terry said something to us last week about how culture is like a thumbprint embedded on our souls. Like a lot of things we don’t pick or ask for, that thumbprint is predetermined for us when we’re born; it surrounds us; we swim in it.
Like the air we breath, our culture is part of everything we think and do, affecting us, being affected by us, and yet virtually unnoticeable.
I am a different person because I was born into the geographic location of the Chicago suburbs and not South Florida or small-town Texas or northern California, I realize, the first child of a Midwestern couple who were starting a new business, not working at office jobs, and a new family, not a big one, in the early 1980s.
My personality and perspectives have been affected by a childhood in private school instead of public school where my mom and not my dad cooked most nights and my family ate out often. I went to northern Wisconsin most summers, not the East or the West.
It was normal to me that people sent annual Christmas cards and gifts required thank-you notes and when someone came over to your house you should try to be a good host.
Most of the ways I’ve been affected by the culture I grew up in are so tied up into the way I look at things and do things, I can only see them when I step outside that culture into a new one, like I’ve done over the last three years, surrounded by different people who didn’t grow up in Naperville, Illinois.
Until I’m confronted with someone else’s reality – in a new place or in a new conversation, in a story over coffee or in a story on a big screen – it’s hard to see the world as bigger than what I experience with my own pair of eyes.
I’ve always been fascinated by this. It’s why I like books and blogs and meeting open people who will talk about their lives. It’s also part of what’s drawn me to a new book, Smitten with Squash, from the Minnesota Historical Society, written by our blog friend Amanda Paa.
Smitten with Squash (The Northern Plate) via Amazon
It’s the fourth in what the MHS calls The Northern Plate Series, a book collection that celebrates, one by one, foods that are beloved and prolific in the American Midwest.
If you didn’t grow up in the middle of the United States, you may or may not be familiar with the annual bumper crop of squash everybody’s talking about around this time of year. But when I was a kid, summer meant people would bring bags of zucchini to school or to church, handing them out to anyone who wanted them and would use them up.
People put zucchini in cakes at church potlucks. There were zucchini gratins and zucchini slices roasted on the grill.
And apparently what I experienced in Illinois is not too different from what others experienced in Minnesota, nor what Tim and I experienced at our farm pickup last week when there was a take-as-much-as-you-can approach going on with the plethora of summer squash.
“Summer squash is promiscuous without even trying to be,” Amanda writes. “It’s a shame they are sometimes taken for granted, which most often happens when they are growing at the speed of weeds.”
It’s funny, but when I read those words, I mostly think how much it makes sense to me, how alike a life in Minnesota can be to a life in Illinois, how people in certain regions have relatable experiences simply because of weather and the way things grow.
I like when it’s easy to picture what someone else is talking about. I like it when what someone’s saying makes sense, even if that something he or she is saying is about a simple, fairly basic thing like food.
As mentioned above, the idea for this recipe comes from Amanda Paa’s Smitten with Squash (Northern Plate Series) cookbook, which we were sent a copy of, and the cheesy zucchini crisps are an adaptation of her zatar-spiced Parmesan zucchini crisps on page 21.
As written, this recipe makes simple, fresh, squash-flavored soup for two and cheesy zucchini crispies for a crowd. This is because I quadrupled the original cheesy crisps recipe in favor of the rather large amount of squash I had shredded in the food processor…. and I made extra.
If you, on the other hand, want just a few crispies, reduce the crisps recipe by four (i.e., try shredding 1/2 squash to start).Print
Summer Squash Soup + Cheesy Zucchini Crispies
A simple, fresh, squash-flavored soup for two and cheesy zucchini crispies with a tray full of cheesy zucchini crispies, with fried basil to garnish.
For the Soup:
- 3 yellow zucchini squash, chopped into rounds
- 1 leek, chopped into rounds
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/8 cup milk
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
For the Cheesy Zucchini Crispies:
- 1 1/2 large yellow zucchini squash, chopped (or 2 cups shredded zucchini)
- 3 3/4 cups shredded Pecorino cheese
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons Italian (or za’atar) seasoning
Fried Basil Leaves (Optional):
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 6 to 10 leaves of fresh basil
- Fill a large stockpot with three quarts of water (and a pinch of salt, if desired), and bring to a boil over medium to high heat. Add chopped squash and leeks, cover the pot and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for about 20 minutes or until vegetables are fork-tender.
- Meanwhile, start the cheesy zucchini crispies: Preheat the oven to 375F/190C and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the chopped zucchini in a food processor until it’s shredded.
- Then, place the shredded zucchini in a tea towel and wring it out over the sink as much as possible to remove the excess water. In a large bowl, combine the wrung-out squash with cheese, olive oil and seasoning.
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and scoop spoonfuls of the mixture onto prepared baking sheets. Flatten each one, leaving room between each mound.
- Bake crispies for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown and shimmering. (I did this in two batches, i.e., four sheets total.) When crispies are done, remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a serving dish.
- Once vegetables are softened, drain the water from the pot. Then, in the same pot, mash vegetables with a large fork or a potato masher until smashed throughout. Add butter, milk, salt and pepper, and mash with a large fork until combined.
- Then, use an immersion blender to smooth out the mixture (alternative: transfer mixture in batches to a Vitamix or food processor). You want to almost purée the mixture but not quite, so that there are still some chunks throughout. Taste and adjust for salt as you like.
- Serve soup hot, topped with cheesy zucchini crispies and, if desired, the fried basil leaves (see below).
- Optional extra step: warm a tablespoon of coconut oil in a small saucepan until hot. Lay basil leaves inside for a minute or two, until crisp. Remove to a paper-towel-lined plate to dry. (This is very easy and very fast but fairly impressive and fun.)
What about you? Did you make this recipe and love it as much as we did? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and please rate the recipe!
Are you looking for more tasty summertime soup recipes? Some of our favorites will tickle your tummy?
Photos by Shanna Mallon, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on June 4th, 2014. Last updated: September 20, 2022 at 11:44 am.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.
29 thoughts on “Summer Squash Soup and Cheesy Zucchini Crispies”
My zucchini plant is about to burst with squash in the next few days! Beautiful post, Shanna, as always. Makes me think that if Murdo and I have kids, they’ll be shaped by what I learned from my culture, and what he learned from his culture, and what we’re learning along the way together. Kinda crazy. Happy Friday, guys!
I CANNOT WAIT to meet your future children.
At any time, should you wish for a visit to Minnesota, to see it’s beauty and green spaces and long, winding river; to breathe in it’s food culture and outdoors and the honest Midwestern hospitality, I have no doubt Amanda and I could help you out. It never ceases to amaze me the connections we can make through an internet line. 🙂
: ) I’d love that, Kate!
Shanna! Loved this post. I know how being in a different culture makes you take a step back and review that which you’ve always seens as your reality, your truth. Moving from Singapore to Buenos Aires is as large a change as the distance separating both cities; and culturally, both are black and white. Yet, I feel that being exposed to people who are so unlike me, or who were born in families so distinct, and eat food so strikingly different, is what helps me appreciate the culture from which I came from and still swim in – but also helps me embrace the people who may seem different in how they look or talk or dress, and realize that despite different skin colors and features, ultimately we all seek love, kindness and faith in others.
Totally feel like we could be friends, even if I never had seasons growing up in Singapore, and even if I’ve never stepped foot on US soil (apart from hawaii, although that doesnt really count, does it?). Thanks for getting my Friday to a thoughful start. love you Shanna!
I love how it’s not just the culture we grow up in that shapes us and that we shape, but also whatever cultures we find ourselves in and apart of throughout life. Like Jacqui said above, it’s amazing how we’re shaped by our parents and our childhoods and also our friendships and then the new families we’re making and on and on it goes. Fascinating.
This soup sounds absolutely amazing. I can’t wait to try it – and love that I already have all of the ingredients for it in my kitchen and garden.
Yay! Hope you enjoy, Beth! I like how clean it is in flavor (i.e., a squash soup that truly, really tastes squashy). It makes me think of Julia Child and how she always said roast chicken is good when it tastes “chickeny.” : )
I was born in the Midwest, so I had a lot of squash as a kid 🙂 This post was a lovely way to remember that.
I’m so glad, TJ! Thanks for saying so.
A wonderfully written post and a gorgeous recipe. Those zucchini crisps just look amazing.
Aw, thank you, sweet Sini!
I love this. Not only for the recipe – which looks great btw – for the openness, the honesty, the feelings and you’ve evoked. I grew up in a working class Northern California family, which has a HUGE influence on who I am 🙂
Thanks, Joyti. I’m so thankful for the “me too”s I feel when I read your writing and when you read mine.
wow this soup is perfect for the winter weather we’re experiencing right now in Australia.. and those cheesy zucchini crisps look to die for! yum..
Thalia, One of my favorite parts of social media is watching opposite weather across the world. Talk about enlarging my perspective! Thanks for doing that here. Happy souping!
Oh my, yes! Zucchini. Grows like crazy in Oregon too! 🙂
And I love everything about your perspective on culture- beautiful!
Thank you, Rebecca!
I think I just might make these cheesy zucchini crispies tomorrow. I have some fresh from the garden. Sounds absolutely delicious, Shanna! Your photos are just lovely too! 🙂
Thanks so much, Krista! I see you know Aubrey — any friend of hers is a friend of mine. Welcome! : )
Thank you so, so much for this beautiful post. When you mentioned people trying to get rid of their squash harvest in church basements or the school parking lot, I was taken right there in my memories. And you’re so right – we do have so much learn about one another if we’ll listen…..
I will treasure the words in this post forever and surely need to meet you in real life sooner than later! I’m glad you liked the zucchini crispies and that soup sounds wonderful. When your cookbook comes out, you know I will be one of the first ones there supporting your wonderful work.
Oh, Amanda, you’re so welcome! We’re glad to know you in this blog world and you’re welcome in Nashville anytime. : )
This was very easy and delicious! I added toasted pumpkin seeds and some cubed up raw zucchini. Thanks for sharing! Beautiful pictures 🙂
Oh, Toby, I’m so glad! Thanks for coming back to say so!
This looks wonderful! Can’t wait to try it out on my guests this weekend.
Hope you enjoy!
I received an ABUNDANCE of yellow squash in my CSA box this week, and I feel at a total loss as to what to do with all of them! (seriously, like 7 big ones!) This soup looks perfect, and maaaaaaybe I can get Ayla to eat some of it. 😉
this sounds better than old plain flour and salt and pepper to fry the squash will try
It’s a really unique and informative article. Great work! Much appreciated, keep posting many more. I added it to my bookmarked website list and will be checking back in the near future.