Potage aux Courgettes

Maundy Thursday at St. John's Cathedral

 

 

This simple cream of zucchini soup, based on a traditional provençal recipe, is what I would definitely call a “crowd pleaser.” I’ve made this soup for groups ranging in size from myself and my partner, to a dozen members of my family surrounding a craftily-elongated dining room table, all the way up to 120 people sitting at a liturgical meal forty feet under the vaulted ceiling of a cathedral…which is precisely what I did last night. I’m a congregant at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral in Los Angeles’ West Adams district. Throughout this Lent I have taken part in the cathedral’s formation program, which is a series of intensive classes preparing individuals seeking baptism, confirmation, reception from another denomination, or reaffirmation of faith. This past year has been incredibly wonderful and exciting but has also been profoundly transitional for me. Within the past twelve months I’ve changed jobs four times, have moved from one city to another very different city, have lived with a significant other for the first time in my life, and have finally returned to school (hence the long delay since my last posting). My life is now settling down and I felt myself finding my bearings in Los Angeles. The many changes of the past year have helped me to evaluate the function and value of many of the things that had tacked themselves onto my identity as an adult. As I evaluated who I was in the context of Los Angeles I wanted to take time to evaluate what role, if any, my faith now played in my life. Throughout Lent I’ve done just that. I find myself serenely comfortable with my identity as an Episcopalian and feel recharged and reminded of a values system I am proud of and hope sincerely to develop as a characteristic of who I am.

The candidates who have taken part in the Formation Classes will be baptized, confirmed, received, or reaffirmed by the Bishop tomorrow evening at the Great Vigil of Easter. One of the expectations of the candidates was that they would help serve at the cathedral’s celebration of Maundy Thursday. Last night St. John’s brought the last supper to life with a touching combination of liturgy, worship, and fellowship. The pews were removed from the nave of the cathedral and a great banquet was set. The congregation sat together at table as the lessons were read and the sermon was given, then the congregation came together for the washing of feet after which communion was given. After communion the meal was served.

Because of my training Fr. Dan and Fr. Mark, the deans of the cathedral, approached me about preparing the meal. They told me their vision: a Mediteranean feast complete with trays overflowing with cheeses, nuts, olives, figs, dates, and dried fruits, a simple vegetarian soup, a big salad, loaves of fresh bread, and for dessert more trays overflowing with grapes, fruits, sweetened breads, and chocolate. Almost immediately I knew Potage aux Courgettes would be perfect. The soup is at once an elegant revelation, balanced and decadent…and then a simple, homey manifestation of “comfort food.” The soup is a long-time favorite, something I make when I want to feel safe and secure…something I’ve wanted many times over the tumultuous past twelve months. And perhaps more than anything that’s what I wanted to share with the congregation of St. John’s: the feeling of comfort, love, and the certainty that every one of us is cared for. I can think of no better medium to have shared this message.

Potage aux Courgettes

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds od zucchini, tips removed and cut into 1/2-inch thick rondelles

1/2 yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock

1 1/2 tablespoons seasoned salt (such as Lawry’s)

1/2 stick of butter

freshly cracked black pepper (to taste)

1 bunch of fresh basil, stems removed and coarsely chopped

2 healthy pinches of ground nutmeg

1 1/2 cups of half and half

Directions:

In a soup pot set over medium/medium-high heat melt the butter and heat just until the foam subsides.

Add the onions and saute, stirring occasionally to brown.

The onions are done when they look like this, golden brown...maybe a little crispy on some of the edges.

Add the rest of the ingredients EXCEPT FOR THE HALF AND HALF (reserve it for later) to the pot. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Once simmering reduce the heat to medium/medium-low and cover. Cook for 30-40 minutes at just around a simmer until the zucchini are very tender (pierce easily on a fork and almost fall apart. Once done turn off heat and allow to cool to room temperature, covered.

Once cooled to room temperature, ladle the soup into a blender. Do this in batches, fill the blender about half-way full on each batch to make sure the soup purees evenly.

puree for 20-25 seconds.

Once all of the soup has been pureed, pour back into the soup pot and return the heat to medium.

Add the half and half. Stir the soup slowly until it returns just to a simmer. Take care to continue stirring the soup, the half and half will curdle if left still.

 

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