Even though it is summer, and most of the country is languishing under the spell of warm weather and long evenings, and I would love to celebrate the joys of crookneck squash, heirloom tomatoes, cherries, peaches and the like, at the end of the day I just want soup. It is cold in San Francisco, and I know to brace myself against the fog and the damp air and the unwelcome wind coming up off the Pacific, but I cannot acclimate.
The weather brings me back to Croatia, where I was for the first part of June. It was unseasonally cool there as well, and of course, I made soup.
The markets were tiny, and the women who worked in them invariably surly, in a country where most people seemed remarkably friendly. The selection of produce was slim but satisfying – there’s a strong Mediterranean influence along the Adriatic coast and a profusion of zucchini, tomatoes and the like.
I stumbled upon a past-prime but serviceable hunk of celery root – I wasn’t expecting this at all (though later discovered that they were everywhere) – and the novelty of it was kind of exciting. It was an easy decision to pair the root with potatoes, onion and zucchini to make what turned into more of a stew than a soup.
We were frequently at a loss in the markets, not knowing the language, not recognizing so much, especially when packaged, and relying daily on salt, pepper, olive oil and onion for flavor. It’s a great place to start but when everything is cooked that way one longs for a variable. Somewhere in the middle of the preparation, it occurred to me that we had generous quantities of cheese rind from the pungent, herby Pag cheese we had been nibbling before dinner. Pag cheese is made from the milk of sheep who graze the salty vegetation on the island of the same name, where we were staying. It was the perfect variable.
Potato and Celery Root Soup with Zucchini
4 potatoes, quartered
2 cups celery root, cubed
1-2 zucchinis, chopped
1 onion, diced
water or chicken stock
salt + pepper
handful of parmesan rinds (I’m not sure where one would find Pag cheese outside Croatia.)
Boil potatoes until soft in a large pot, mash, and return to pot with heat off. Saute onions and set aside. Separately, saute celery root and zucchini over low heat until they begin to soften. Add all of these things to the pot. Throw in the parmesan rinds. Add enough water to cover. Season with salt and pepper. Saute, covered, over low heat for about 1/2 hr.
We did not have access to things like blenders or food processors, so there was no creamy puree. But you could do this if you wish.