Ugly Soup

Food should be pretty. As the Italians say, “we eat with the eyes first.” Perhaps this is why unattractive dishes like this and this tend to be less popular at buffets and potlucks. Although I suspect they wouldn’t do much better in the cafeteria at the Perkins School for the Blind. But when you’re cooking and the image you have in your head of the beautiful magic the ingredients will create together bears zero resemblance to the pot-full of bleached sludge you end up with, ugly cooking is ok. Especially if you know the ingredients are fresh and delicious and you don’t have anything else in the apartment to make for dinner.

This is what happened with this soup. I started with this Gourmet recipe, but played with the quantities and ingredients, adding in a couple of extra things along the way. When I was done, it looked like grout thinned with chicken stock. But it was delectable, velvety and packed full of caramelized summer squash. Rich enough for a meal, but cream-less, so it still felt kind of virtuous. And I was delighted to have happened upon an ideal use for my crisper full of aging vegetables. It was excellent reheated the next day as well, slightly mellower and still yummy but, alas, no prettier.

I did make the Mint Pistou Gourmet recommends garnishing the soup with, but it proved too much work for too little deliciousness. If you happen to have some fresh pesto in the house, a small dollop on top of each serving will be tasty and might even add a bit of polish, but this is never going to be the supermodel of soups, so don't get your hopes up.

I’m posting a pretty flower picture of instead of the soup, because the camera broke when I took it. Ok, I’m kidding. The camera is fine, and the soup isn’t so atrociously ugly that it’s a turn off. To be perfectly honest, it's not even that ugly; I just needed a good angle for this piece. I promise you’ll enjoy it if you make it. Unless it comes out like this. Then throw it away and promise never to set foot in the kitchen again.

Ugly Soup
Serves 6

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 medium onion, diced
½ teaspoon salt
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 ½ lb yellow summer squash, halved and thinly sliced
2 carrots, thinly sliced
¾ lb. yellow-fleshed potatoes peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Melt butter in a 6- to 8-quart heavy pot on medium-low. Add onion and salt, stirring occasionally until softened, 6-8 minutes.

2. Add squash and carrots, and let cook for another 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add potato and stock and bring to a boil. Add corn, reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, until vegetables are very tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

3. Puree soup with a hand-blender until smooth. Add a little water or stock to thin it, if it’s become too thick. Return to heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and serve.

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