Before I had children, I got to take a few vacations to France. That will obviously never happen again. But thankfully, on my last trip to the Loire Valley, I had the good sense to leave with a recipe so I could recreate some of the flavors of a fantastic culinary experience.
The cuisine in the Loire Valley was simple and delicious, featuring locally-grown produce in season, like strawberries, cherries and zucchini. Locally-grown mushrooms also played a starring role, and locally-caught pike perch (fish) and locally-made goat cheeses are ubiquitous.
While our meals were quite varied, the one dish that kept resurfacing was some version of a curried zucchini puree. The most successful variation on the theme was a cold, pureed soup served by our lovely and talented hosts at Le Moulin Brégeon, possibly one of the most idyllic places on the planet. While I’ve never much been one for cold soups (or making soup in the summer), I must say that this dish won me over; it’s a lovely substitute for a salad to start off a summer meal, or would make a fine half of a light soup-and-salad lunch.
This recipe was graciously provided by Bernard at Moulin Bregeon. After having tasted the cool soup, which was incredibly refreshing after a long, hot day of touring around the region, I expected the recipe to be a considerably more involved and nuanced affair than it turned out to be. The actual process is astonishingly simple, and really highlights the difference that locally-grown, fresh ingredients make from a flavor perspective. In our case, the zucchinis used for the soup were picked from the inn’s garden just 3 hours before dinner, and we watched Chef Pascal clip some chives and pansies for the garnish just moments before we were seated for dinner. Bernard emphasized the importance of using small, younger zucchini for this recipe–about 6 oz each– rather than the monster-sized zucchini we’re used to buying in the U.S. He also mentioned that the trick to the texture is really blending the soup until it is a very smooth and creamy with no chunks or visible pieces; this gives such a velvety and rich effect without using any cream whatsoever. (If you've got a Vitamix, this should be a breeze.) For my vegan readers, I’m sure a vegetable broth would substitute just fine for the chicken broth. While I’ve never much been one for cold soups (or making soup in the summer), I must say that this dish won me over; it’s a lovely substitute for a salad to start off a summer meal, or would make a fine half of a light soup-and-salad lunch.
Moulin Brégeon’s Curried Zucchini Soup
- One large, peeled onion cut fine
- 2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- 4 young zucchinis (~26 ounces total, or about 1.7 lbs), washed and cut in fine rounds
- ~4 cups (1 liter) of chicken broth
- Pour the oil in a big pot, throw in the onion, the curry and a pinch of salt. Brown until the onion is tender (3 or 4 minutes).
- Add broth and zucchinis, cover and reduce heat, cook for 20 minutes.
- Blend until the soup is creamy.
- You can eat this soup hot or cold; you can also add more curry if you like it spicier.
- Garnish with fresh chives if desired