It is, perhaps, the greatest slap in the face of all.
Just as Summer presents you with a dazzling array of berries and fruits, all of them inspiration for your deepest baking desires, Summer also slaps you in the face with heat and humidity.
The very idea of turning the stove on makes me shudder and that’s saying a lot for a committed home baker such as myself.
It’s just not fair.
For a solid two weeks now, to step outside your front door is to be immediately met with a muggy, heavy, moist and stifling Summer kiss. Shudder.
Central air-conditioning be damned. We live in a small, older home and even with central air, as soon as you turn that oven on, our house is a sauna.
So for two weeks, I have been freezing berries like a madwoman, all the while fuming.
Every single time I hear someone say how much they love the Summer and the heat, I’m pretty much casting eye daggers their way.
What is the point of Summer if you cannot bake and use all the beautiful fruits and vegetables around you?
Sitting and stewing has led to many elaborate revenge fantasies. While I’m still working on that machine that will allow us to skip straight from Spring to Fall, I have settled on something a bit more realistic.
Vichyssoise. Zucchini vichyssoise, to be exact.
I was initiatied into the vichyssoise club several years ago during a leisurely lunch at the home of a family friend. It was a hot (of course) summer day and after the appetizers were cleared away, our hostess pulled out a tall, glass jug from the refrigerator.
The jug appeared to be filled with a thick cream, but I soon discovered that it was a cold potato and leek soup known as vichyssoise. Just before serving, our hostess mixed in a healthy dose of cream and then poured the soup into pretty litle cups.
As I had my first taste of vichyssoise I remember thinking, “This is gold. This must become a part of my life on a regular basis.”
Vichyssoise is very easy to make. Cook down some leeks (or onions) and potatoes with chicken stock. Once it’s all cooked, season to taste and then puree and refrigerate. Just before serving, mix in some cream and then serve with snipped chives for a bit of bite.
From Ina Garten’s Barefoot in Paris, I got the idea of making a zucchini vichyssoise.
Perfect. Now I can thwart summer on two fronts. Not only can I enjoy a delicious cold soup, I can also make another dent in the zucchini mountain growing outside our door.
This soup is so refreshing, it almost makes up for the pain of not being able to bake.
As an added “painkiller” and hopefully another salvo aimed at Summer, I’ve been topping the zucchini vichyssoise with … what else … more zucchini.
These fried zucchini strips are a common side dish in our house. It’s a very fast way to use up some zucchini and I have yet to meet the person that can resist them.
So I bide my time. Summer has to end sooner or later. Cooler temperatures will usher in the days of baking once again.
I just hope the freezer holds out.
2 zucchini, medium-sized
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
corn oil or canola oil, for frying
sea salt, to taste
1. Cut the ends off the zucchini and discard. Slice the zucchini into the finest slivers you can by first cutting the zucchini into long, thin slices and then cutting the slices into long, thin slivers. Set aside.
2. In a large frying pan, pour in enough oil to come about an inch up the side of the pan. Heat the oil over medium-high heat.
3. While the oil is heating, place the flour in a large bowl and in several batches, dredge the zucchini slivers in the oil. Once dredged, shake off the excess flour and place the slivers in a plate.
4. Once the oil is hot, fry the slivers in batches. Do not overcrowd the pan. The slivers will fry for about 4 to 5 minutes, at which time they should be golden. Using tongs, turn the slivers so that they become golden and crunchy on all sides.
5. Once golden, remove the zucchini slivers to a plate lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with sea salt right away.
6. Serve the zucchini while hot.