Creamy Zucchini-Wild Rice Chowder

We don’t always associate soup with summer, but in the same way fresh, sweet-scented peach pie demands to be baked in the dog days of August, we have to stir up zucchini soup at the exact moment the counter begins piling up once again with unending stacks of zucchini (tomatoes, cabbage…). Or when a very inexpensive, but large bag of zucchini somehow gets into our cart at Costco. And we get home only to wonder just what to do with all of that squash.

August 8: National Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day

Jump to Recipe

I often make zucchini bread or frittatas when flush with summer’s bright squash, but needing dinner, I wandered out to the garage pantry to snoop around and see what was on those shelves that might help make a meal. Once my eye hit an unopened bag of wild rice, I knew I was putting together the squash and rice in some kind of pot for dinner and skipping the grilling for a night. There’s nothing like wild rice soup to a born and bred northern midwesterner and while most of those soups contain chicken, turkey or white fish (especially at holiday time), they can also be vegetable-based. Why not zucchini? I had plenty of other vegetables, a bunch of chicken broth, a little frozen ham to jack up the flavor profile and, unusually, had a cream to top it off at the very end. Ingredients for easy whole wheat bread got tossed into the bread machine and the “start” button pushed not long before I began the soup. Soup. Bread. Wine. What else do you need? Not much. Even if it is still summer.

SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT BLOGGING AND PHOTOGRAPHY FOR THIS POST:

As I cook, write, and photograph every week, there are times I’m not exactly happy with the pics or other components, but the blog must go on, so to speak. I grin and bear it. A professional food stylist or photographer, I’m not and this isn’t the first page of a novel I’m trying to perfect for all eternity. So it’s cool when there’s a post like this one where the images feel as if they really reflect the taste, aroma, and appearance — all critical elements — of the dish. Bear with me if there’s an extra photo or two today’s Creamy Zucchini-Wild Rice Chowder. And, by the way, if you make my chowder and yours doesn’t look like my photos, mine didn’t either until I spent a good amount of time (maybe 30 minutes) making it look like this. For me, the photo must look like what the food actually is. The zucchini has to sit right on top along with a potato, some carrots, and so on so you immediately know, without seeing the caption, that you’re looking at zucchini and other vegetable soup of some sort. The photo hopefully pops with color to draw your eyes in, so I work on garnish to stand out as do the chives and red peppers here. (Continued below…)

So no graphic on this photo to tell you what this is, but if I’ve done my job correctly, you have a good idea.

… I occasionally cut fresh pieces of vegetables and stick them right on top dipped into the dish because cooked vegetables lose their bright color. Look again; some of the zucchini has been cooked and some is fresh. The light needs to work, so I take food outdoors not when it’s terribly sunny, but when it’s merely totally light and not all shady, either. I probably took between three and four dozen photos to get the 3 you see here. There are times I have to wait for another day and hope the food holds. Sometimes it doesn’t and I need to make the recipe again, though it’s always great to test one more time. In winter, I’m often “stuck” photographing a dish in one of my two southern windows or on the lid of my baby grand piano, which is next to one of those all-important windows. It’s a never-ending puzzle that almost always has a close to happy ending, thanks to readers who continue to keep me company on this journey. You’re much appreciated.

In good weather, I might lay a dish down in my herb planter just for grins. If you look closely at the following photo, you can see the chives I put in the soup growing right next to the bowl. It’s been quite fun to play with soup this last week; I hope you try this:

Creamy Zucchini-Wild Rice Chowder

A veggie-packed summery version of the great northern midwest wild rice chowders, this soup utilizes just 1/4 of a pound of diced ham (can sub bacon) for flavor. Not your run-of-the-mill flour-thickened version, it is brothy and light but still filling. If your generous neighbors gift you very large zucchini, use them but first peel, then slice lengthwise in half and remove the big seeds. Hasten preparation by chopping vegetables in the food processor — being careful to not mince them — as the soup is both prettier and tastier when the various vegetables are of a visible size. This chowder is naturally gluten free (check labels) and I include vegan/vegetarian options in notes at end of recipe. Needs crusty bread for dunking and swiping up the last dibs and dabs.
6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • ¼ pound ham, diced (To sub bacon: chop 4 pieces into ½-inch dice and cook them until nearly crispy in the butter. Remove to a bowl and add back in with the zucchini and potatoes later on or use as garnish.)
  • 1 ½ large yellow onions, diced
  • 3 plump, large cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 stalks celery with leaves, diced
  • 3 large carrots, unpeeled and cut into ½-inch thick rounds
  • Handful of chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped (1 1½ teaspoons dry)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dry bouquet garni (can sub mixture of dry basil and oregano)
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • ½ cup wild rice, well-cleaned (See Notes.)
  • 3 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut into ½-inch dice (3 – 3 ½ cups diced zucchini)
  • 4 small, new potatoes unpeeled, cut into ½-inch dice
  • 1 cup half and half (can sub cream or milk)
  • 2 shakes hot sauce (or to taste)
  • Choice of garnishes: grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; sliced scallions; minced chives; chopped fresh parsley; thinly sliced red bell peppers (use any or a combination)

Instructions

  • Melt butter over medium heat in an 8-quart soup pot. Add ham, onion, garlic, celery, carrots, salt, pepper, parsley, bay leave, thyme, and bouquet garni. Cook, stirring, until onion and celery are nearly tender — 10-15 minutes.
  • Pour in broth, water, and tomatoes. Raise heat and bring to a boil. Add wild rice and lower heat to a good simmer. Cook about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Add another cup of water or broth if the soup becomes too thick as it cooks.)
  • Add zucchini and potatoes. Simmer another 15-20 minutes or until everything — especially the wild rice — is tender.
  • Turn off heat and remove pot from the burner. Pour in the half and half; season with hot sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings. Heat again gently if needed. Do not boil after adding half and half. Serve hot with choice of garnishes.
    STORAGE: Cool and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Do not freeze. (SEE TIPS.)

Notes

CLEANING WILD RICE:  Place rice in bowl and add water to cover.  Drain.  Repeat several times.
 
VEGAN/VEGETARIAN NOTES:
  1. Vegan:  use olive oil or vegan butter in place of salted butter. 
  2. Vegan/Vegetarian:  omit ham.
  3. Vegan/Vegetarian:  sub vegetable broth for chicken broth.
  4. Vegan:  sub coconut milk for half and half.
 
Copyright Alyce Morgan  moretimeatthetable.com  All rights reserved.

Manomin gave its name to the moon (month) of harvest, which is typically the end of August to early September in northern Minnesota. Harvest time can be fun, but a lot of hard work is involved, especially processing the grain on the spot, even with some modern aids. This native grass has a very large, erect, branched inflorescence which produces edible grains. Wild-rice usually grows in water and is often planted as wildlife food. Manomin (the Ojibwe word for wild rice) grows as reeds that are anywhere from 8-12 ft. tall. They grow in water that is about 3-8 feet deep in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and marshes north of the Great Lakes. There are thousands of different varieties, each kind growing in its own particular place of depth, temperature, mud, water quality. Wild rice is very sensitive to the environmental conditions of its niche. The plants do not like changes; the species are perfectly adapted to the way things are in different areas, including seasonal water levels, quality, temperature.

Moose Lake Wild Rice

IF YOU LIKED THIS, YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE MY:

Turkey-Wild Rice and Vegetable Soup with Sherry…

Coconut Curry Corn-Zucchini Chowder

Butternut Squash-Wild Rice Soup


Asparagus-Wild Rice Chowder from my now-finished Dinner Place blog, which featured cooking for one or two. Story/Recipe here.

TIPS:

CHANGE IT UP/PAIRINGS/THINGS TO READ OR SEE

  • No zucchini? Yellow (summer) squash or asparagus are good alternatives, as is butternut squash. See above photos + recipes.
  • Dairy-free milks such as coconut or almond milk can sub for the half and half. Olive oil works for butter, too.
  • Brown rice might stand in for the wild rice in a pinch and is less expensive, though I’m crazy about wild rice and hope you’ll try it. I believe it’s worth ordering if necessary. It keeps forever, literally. (See note below under “Wild Rice Storage.”)
  • Want to add more meat? Leave the ham in for flavoring, but also include a pound of diced boneless, skinless chicken thighs at the same time — making sure you cook them through (no pink) before adding the broth, water, and tomatoes. If you’ve a couple of pieces of leftover chicken or turkey, skin, bone, and shred it just before adding it in with the zucchini and potatoes. Check thickness of your chowder; you may need to add more broth to give the additional ingredients plenty of swimming space. (Or see below, Turkey-Wild Rice and Vegetable Soup with Sherry…)
  • What vegetables can I leave out? This soup will still be mostly the same and quite good without potatoes (use more zucchini or add corn or some cooked white beans), though they do give the dish a chowder-ish feel. You could also skip the can of tomatoes, adding instead extra broth plus a tablespoon or two of tomato paste or even a couple of peeled and diced fresh tomatoes.
  • Wine… dry Riesling
  • Dessert: It’s summer: time for ice cream or one of the big, fat chocolate-coated ice cream bars.
  • One zucchino, two zucchini. Really.
  • The Right Way to Cut Carrots, No Matter How You’re Using Them/MYRECIPES.COM
  • All the Types of Onions and What They’re Best For/BA
  • How Much is “A Handful?”/DAVIDLEBOVITZ
  • Buy Minnesota Wild Rice/NATIVEHARVEST OJIBWE PROJECT
  • Wild Rice/REALFOODENCYCLOPEDIA
  • We Rice on Leech Lake/LEECHLAKETRIBALCOLLEGE (See how wild rice is harvested by the Ojibwe–YOU TUBE VIDEO.)

WILD RICE Storage

Wild rice will keep indefinitely, if it is kept in a cool dry place in a covered jar or left in original bag.

Cooked, leftover wild rice can be keep refrigerated up to one week; however, it is recommended that you use it up within two or three days. After one week left over wild rice can be frozen. Any cooked foods stored in the refrigerator for a week can develop molds and yeasts that are not visible to the eye but can negatively affect the immune system.

courtesy: Moose Lake Wild Rice

REDUCING FOOD/OTHER WASTE WITH THIS RECIPE:

  • Because cream soups don’t behave well in the freezer (they separate or become grainy), only make as much soup as you can eat or share within 3 days.
  • If you’d really like to freeze the chowder, go ahead and make it right up to the point of adding the half and half, stopping there. Freeze it and after defrosting, heat the soup to a simmer, turn off, and then add the half and half as per recipe instructions.
  • The Best Way to Store Celery/FOOD 52
  • How to Grow Parsley/THESPRUCE
  • Bought a quart of half and half and now have leftovers? Time to make ice cream, decadent vanilla pudding, or a creamy latte!
  • Ham? I like to buy a big ham when they’re on sale. When I’ve had my way with it, I freeze the bone and a few small packages of ham just for occasions like this. (Frozen ham makes great ham salad, too.) You can also buy some sliced ham at the deli or a small, packaged ham. Part of a ham steak would be perfect and you could make quiche or ham and eggs with the remainder. Make a pot of bean soup using a ham bone.

When I’m not cooking or blogging, this is where you’ll find me:

When you’re not cooking or reading blogs (!) or working (sigh), how do you make wonderful use of the minutes in the day?

LIFE GOES ON:

BELOW: “Alvin” on top of our walkway garden telephone poles, which are sadly deteriorating lately. S/he likes to make a mess under our front deck and we discourage him with sponges soaked with apple cider vinegar. S/he steals the sponges and continues on his merry mischief-making way. We’ve had very few chipmunks over the years (we’re overloaded with squirrels and bunnies usually) and this one doesn’t seem to have any mates at all. I’m in hopes s/he merely visits here and maintains a good friend or perhaps a family at a neighbor’s as some cats do.

BELOW: I don’t know about where you live, but here we’re facing unhealthy air quality due to smoke from the western fires. I know some of this smoke has affected places much further east than Colorado. I’m luckily not an asthma sufferer, but this kind of weather does make me catch my breath a time or two. Our windows are closed and the air conditioning stays on to filter the air. Some days the skies are much darker or hazier and the air quality is better — a little confusing. Prayers for the people who have lost their homes, livelihoods, and communities, as well as for all of the firefighters fighting blazes so far from home.

May you breathe easily. Soup might help as we face both fires and increasing COVID risks. But really, when doesn’t soup help?!

Alyce

BELOW: the sun when I got up on Sunday (untouched photo)

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