Growing up, Campbell’s Cream of [fill in the blank] Soup was my go-to comfort food. My grandmother always had cans in her cupboard to cook with, and they were what I would pop open for lunch any time I was staying over, which was a lot.
When I started cooking seriously, this was the thing I most wanted to replicate. What I found was that this basic recipe will work for pretty much any vegetable–cauliflower, broccoli, celery, mushroom, potato, summer squash, butternut squash, etc.
Since everyone and their mother has been giving me their excess zucchini over the past three weeks, I’ve been making a lot of Cream of Zucchini, which I’m going to walk through below. However, feel free to replace out one vegetable for another depending on what you have around!
What you’ll need for this soup is also fairly flexible. You’ll want your chosen vegetable (see my zucchini above), a small onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 6 cups of stock, cream (in cheese or half and half form), paprika, salt, and pepper.
In this iteration, I used half of a leek and some shallot for the onion, but any onion combo will do! Similarly, if you don’t have fresh garlic, replace with a 1/2 tsp of dried. Cream-wise, I like a mix of cream cheese and a splash of half and half, but you could just use one or the other. The stock can be whatever is handy (veggie, chicken, beef), but you could also use bouillon with no problem.
Roughly chop your onions, zucchini, and garlic. (These will be blended later, so no need to be pretty with this.)
Heat your oil of choice in a soup pot on the stove. When it’s warm, add your chopped vegetables and a sprinkle of salt and pepper and sauté until starting to lightly brown, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 tsp of paprika and saute for another 30 seconds.
Add your stock enough to cover the vegetables and then about two more inches. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat to medium and boil gently for 15-20 minutes.
After that, add your cream cheese or half and half (approximately 1/4 cup). (Note that if using cheese, it doesn’t need to be smooth.) Then either blend with an immersion blender or turn the soup off to cool and then add in batches to a blender or food processor. (Don’t add super-hot soup to your food processor–it will explode everywhere. Ask me how I know!)
Once smooth, taste for salt and pepper. If you’d like it creamier, you can add a little more half and half.
At this point, it’s totally ready for eating, but you can always make it extra fancy too!
I love to do something a little extra when I’m serving cream soups. Sometimes that’s just a drizzle of truffle oil to finish a cauliflower or mushroom soup. Sometimes it is some chopped parsley or carrot tops to add a little herbal finish. With a potato soup, some melted cheese and crumbled bacon on top really brings it home. Chopped green onion tops or chives are delicious on everything.
With the zucchini soup, I figured I would stick with what else is in season and fry up a little fresh corn. If you want to do the same, chop the corn from the cob and then sauté the kernels in butter with salt and cayenne for 2 minutes.
Finally, top soup with corn kernels, green onions, and a drizzle of good olive oil. It will look beautiful and eat like a meal.
Remember, play with this recipe. It’s meant to be adaptable, which means add some different spices if you want! Top with different things! It’s yours to do with as you want now.