Southern Recipes: Summer Squash Soup

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By Damon Lee Fowler

Of all the produce of summer, nothing is as deeply entwined with memories of my childhood, mother, and grandmother, as yellow crookneck squash. Until my mother started growing green zucchini in the sixties, yellow crooknecks were the only summer squash we knew.

Perhaps one reason they’re so memorable for me is because most of the garden’s bounty was cooked only one or, at best, two ways. Not squash. We had them steamed whole, sliced and stewed with bacon and onions, creamed, rolled in cornmeal and fried, layered into cheesy, crumb-topped casseroles, and – MaMa’s specialty – stuffed with a savory filling of their own pulp mixed with crumbs and green onions and baked until golden.

The one thing we never had was squash soup – until, that is, my grandmother went out west on a bus tour. MaMa didn’t look the part, but she was a world-class adventuress who loved to travel more than anything. It really didn’t matter where she was going, so long as “going” was the operative word.

Whenever the women’s club announced a trip, she was packed and in the front seat of the bus faster than flies on watermelon. We never minded her trips because she always came home with great stories and terrific new recipes, like this creamy, delicate yet full-flavored squash soup from Texas.

By then, I was in college, so it wasn’t part of my childhood. Yet whenever I make it, it takes me back to those lazy summer vacations spent in my grandmother’s kitchen, when, no matter how hot it got, she could always make cooking an adventure.

Yellow Summer Squash Soup With Sage And Thyme
Serves 4

1 pound yellow crookneck squash
1 medium leek
1 large yellow onion, peeled and sliced thin
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup homemade Chicken Broth or ½ canned broth mixed with ½ cup water
1 Bouquet Garni made with a sprig each of thyme, parsley and sage
Salt and white pepper in a peppermill
2 cups half and half
¼ cup heavy cream (optional)
4 - 5 fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced, or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

Scrub the squash under cold running water, trim the blossom and stem ends, and slice crosswise into ½-inch-thick rounds. Split the leek lengthwise and wash it well under running water to remove the dirt from between the leaves. Remove and reserve the green tops and slice the white part.

Put the sliced leek, onion, and butter in a 4-quart pot over medium heat. Sauté until softened, but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the squash and toss until hot. Add the broth, bouquet garni, a pinch or so of salt, and liberal grinding of white pepper. Raise the heat to medium high, bring to a boil, and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat.

Remove and discard the bouquet garni. Take up and reserve a cup of solids. Puree the remainder with a hand blender, food processor, or blender. Return it to the pot. Thinly slice the inner pale leek greens. Roughly chop the reserved solids and add them with the leek greens to the puree. Bring back to a simmer over medium heat and simmer until greens are tender, about 5 minutes. The soup can be made ahead: pour it into a bowl set in a basin of ice water and stir until cold; cover and refrigerate.

To serve hot, heat it gently over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, then add the half and half and heat it through. Taste and correct the seasonings. Ladle the soup into heated soup plates. Garnish with a drizzle of cream and a sprinkling of the fresh sage or chives.

To serve it cold, after chilling add the half and half, then taste and correct the seasonings. Garnish as you would the hot soup, or whip the cream until it forms soft peaks, put a dollop on each serving, and sprinkle with the chopped herbs and white pepper.

You’ll also love these Summer Squash Recipes from Paula!

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I made this as an appetizer and it was amazing! So easy, too!

By Kiera on August 20, 2011

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Paula, I love watching you and your family. I miss seeing your show, I watched you everyday. My son lives in Charleston S.C. He took me to the Lady & Sons to eat. Oh my goodness! People are always telling me that I look just like the cooking lady Paula Deen. I always tell them that you are my hero. May God Bless You Mary Ann
Mary Ann Tharp in A Summer of Burgers on August 15, 2014 at 10:48 pm

Add a few spoonfuls of parmesan cheese to the flour and cornmeal breading and it kicks the tomatoes up another notch. Bev
in Crispy Fried Green Tomatoes on August 15, 2014 at 10:33 am

I just bought Paula's Peach Salad Dressing and wondered if anyone has a good recipe that they use it in?
Melissa in Taste Testing 101 on August 13, 2014 at 8:36 am

Congrats Bobby. Loved the family picture miss you Paula on TV will be watching online. Jack is getting big. Looks like his mom but Matt aka moose has your face. Your eyes cheeks hair even falls to his face like yours except to the left. Good luck on your next venture. You give us other 60+ yr women strength to move on. Keep up the good work.
Carol Bryant in Love at Last on August 11, 2014 at 6:12 pm