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November, 2012

Zucchini and Snap Pea Pottage with Feta

By Heidi Allison

A staple in the royal French and English courts (served before roasted meats) during the Middle Ages, pottage derives the moniker, "standing stew", from its unique texture: It had to be so thick you could place a spoon into the soup and it would stand at attention—not fall down.

Rosemary

Somewhere between a thick soup and a stew, this modern rendition of a vegetable pottage is elegant and refined. A staple in the royal French and English courts (served before roasted meats) during the Middle Ages, pottage derives the moniker, “standing stew”, from its unique texture: It had to be so thick you could place a spoon into the soup and it would stand at attention—not fall down. Surprisingly easy-to-prepare, low-cal and budget-friendly, this luxurious soup makes a great starter course for the holidays!

In this recipe, it tastes like you have the culinary skills of a master chef, but, it’s really just blender cooking—couldn’t be easier. The secret ingredient is the thickening agent: day-old artisanal, white French bread (Boule) with garlic and rosemary and milk, which not only create a thick, creamy texture, but also lightens its color to an exquisite shade of opaque, celadon green. (A clever way to repurpose your expensive, artisanal, stale bakery bread!) And, flavors are layered in this dish to create interest in your mouth--room temperature Feta cheese is crumbled into the bottom of the soup bowl just before serving, which takes on a soft and creamy texture from the residual heat of the soup, and adds a layer of richness and a subtle, briny flavor to the finished dish. ZucchiniIt’s also crucial that you take the time to properly caramelize the onions, and soften the zucchini, before puréeing them with the corn, turkey and lamb stocks: this step creates a rich sweetness and the requisite depth of flavor that this dish requires. (While the lamb stock is not a crucial ingredient, it does add roundness to the dish. Mutton broth was the flavor-enhancer-of-choice used in King Henry VIII Tudor Court potages—only one “t” is used in the English spelling for this genre of soup).

This versatile stew can also be changed up using other thickeners to create an entirely new approach to this culinary icon – almond milk, ground almonds or a mash of puréed root vegetables are all traditional thickeners that can be switched out for the stale bread. Alternate your stocks to change up the flavor profiles – beef, veal, duck, chicken or the reduced, leftover cooking water from last nights steamed veggies – all work. Be creative!

Zucchini and Snap Pea Pottage with Feta
Serves: 4 as an appetizer; 2 as an entree
Zucchini and Snap Pea Pottage with Feta
Ingredients
:
2 Tablespoons Extra-Virgin Oil
2 small Yellow Zucchini, sliced into ½ - inch thick rounds
2 small Green Zucchini, sliced into ½-inch thick rounds
1 ounce Sugar Snap Peas, plus 4 for garnish
Maui Onions, peeled and sliced in ¼-inch rings
½ teaspoon Kosher Salt
½ cup 1% Low Fat Milk
1 cup Turkey Stock
1 Tablespoon Pre-Packaged Gourmet Lamb Stock (optional)
1 cup Corn Water (see recipe below)
4 ounces day-old, Artisanal White Bread with Garlic Rosemary; about ¼ of a Boule Dash of Nutmeg
3 ounces Feta Cheese, room temperature

Corn water:
Heat 8 cups of water in a large pot until boiling. Place 6 ears of corn in water and when water returns to a boil, turn off heat immediately and cover. Let corn remain in the hot water to cook for at least 15 minutes. Remove corn and use in another dish. Heat corn cooking water on high until reduced by a quarter.

Preparation:
Place olive oil in a medium skillet on medium/low heat, and sauté zucchini and onions, sprinkled with Kosher salt, until onions are golden and zucchini is soft—about 15 minutes. Add snap peas and sauté for another 2 minutes, or until peas change to a bright green color. Remove veggies to a bowl and set aside.

Heat turkey stock in pot and add 1 Tablespoon of lamb stock, stir and set aside. Place zucchini, onions, turkey/lamb stock, corn water and milk to a blender and purée. Add day-old bread and purée until incorporated and soup has a thick, but smooth texture—about 30 seconds. Season with a dash of nutmeg.

Place soup in a pot and heat until hot. Sprinkle feta cheese in the bottom of a soup bowl and ladle hot soup over cheese. Slice snap peas into three sections lengthwise and place on top of soup.

Serve immediately.

Author’s Notes:
To change up the flavor profile, top this soup with flash-fried, crispy prosciutto.