(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on August 10, 2009. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)

While many interesting and exotic soups are made with ingredients not grown by every gardener, most of us at least have tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, carrots or other common vegetables in our gardens. These healthy, tasteful varieties all need basically the same things: lots of sun and plenty of water. Most of them also welcome a dose of organic matter to help them thrive.

Once these prolific producers get going, youll be thankful for having a variety of ways to use them! Herewith are some interesting summer soups.

ZUCCHINI

The revered (and feared) zucchini is one of the most versatile vegetables when it comes to soup. Here are two chilled soups that are sure to convince even the most skeptical diner that going green is a good thing!

Cream of Zucchini & Onion Soup
Serves 8

1-1/4 lbs zucchini (about 4 medium), chopped
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 cup chicken broth, ready to use
2 cups evaporated 2% milk
1 cup light sour cream
2 small green onion tops, sliced for garnish
zucchini
  1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, then add the onion and cook until transparent (about 10 minutes); stir occasionally.
  2. Add garlic, basil, pepper, and zucchini. Cook for 1 minute
  3. Add broth, stir, then reduce heat and simmer until zucchini is tender (about 20 minutes).
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  5. Transfer cooled mixture into food processor (or blender) in small batches. As you puree each batch, add some of the milk and sour cream. Transfer puree to a glass or ceramic bowl. Continue this step until all the vegetable mixture, milk, and sour cream are used.
  6. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.
  7. Serve soup in chilled bowls and garnish with chopped green onions. Serve with crusty French bread.

Per serving: Calories 122, Fat 5 g, Protein 7 g, Carb 14 g, Fiber 2 g, Chol 21 mg, Sodium 1010* Food Exchanges: 1 Vegetable; 1/2 Fat *To reduce the sodium content, make your own chicken broth or use one of the low-sodium products made by Swanson or College Inn.

Chilled Zucchini & Cream Cheese Soup
Serves 10

1-1/4 lbs zucchini, chopped (about 4 medium)
3-1/2 cups chicken broth, ready to use
1-1/2 cups chopped green onion
1/2 tsp ground black pepper (or to taste)
1/4 tsp dried dill weed
16 oz light cream cheese
1 cup light sour cream
1/4 tsp paprika

  1. Place zucchini, broth, green onion, pepper, and dill weed in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  2. Reduce heat to low and simmer until zucchini is tender (about 12 to 15 minutes).
  3. Place 8 ounces of the cream cheese into the food processor and add 2 cups of the soup mixture; blend until smooth, then transfer to a large glass or ceramic bowl. Blend remaining cream cheese and soup in batches, and add to bowl.
  4. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  5. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
  6. Ladle into chilled bowls and sprinkle with paprika. Serve with crescent rolls or croissants.

Per serving: Calories 144, Fat 11g,* Protein 7g, Carb 5g, Fiber 1g, Chol 34 mg, Sodium 552 mg.**
Food Exchanges: 1/2 Vegetable

*To reduce fat content, use fat-free cream cheese and sour cream. **To reduce the sodium content, make your own chicken broth or use one of the low-sodium products made by Swanson or College Inn.

CARROTS

Carrots are good for you, and they are fun and easy to grow (if you don't have to share them with the rabbits). Try this elegant and delicious warm soup on a cool late-summer evening.

Carrot and Orange Soup
Serves 4 to 6

4 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 cups chopped yellow onions
2 lbs fresh carrots, peeled and chopped
4 cups chicken broth, ready to use
1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
salt & pepper to taste
1 Tbsp grated orange zest
carrot
  1. In a large pan, melt butter and add the onions.
  2. Cover and cook on low until lightly colored (about 25 minutes).
  3. Add chicken broth and carrots, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook until carrots are tender (about 30 minutes).
  4. Strain the liquid into a heat-proof container.
  5. Place the cooked carrot/onion mixture into the food processor.
  6. Add 1 cup of the liquid, then puree until smooth.
  7. Pour puree into the cooking pot and add the orange juice. Stir.
  8. Add additional cooking liquid--2 to 3 cups--until the soup reaches the desired consistency.
  9. Season to taste and add the orange zest.
  10. Heat gently, then serve immediately. A delicious accompaniment is warm cornbread.

Per serving: Calories 179, Fat 9g, Protein 4g, Carb 24g, Fiber 5g, Chol 22mg, Sodium 430mg
Food Exchanges: 3-1/2 Vegetable; 1/2 Fruit; 1-1/2 Fat

TOMATOES

Years ago while traveling in Spain, I discovered Gazpacho and, forever after that, it became a summer favorite. Kids who didn't care for green salad would gobble this up; and my oldest daughter could never remember the name, so she'd ask when we were going to have gestapo again!

Summer Salad Soup, or Gazpacho!
Serves 6

Tip: Chop the vegetables into small pieces; not diced, but not too big to eat

2 slices French bread
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1-2 cloves garlic, minced (to taste)
salt & pepper to taste
2 lbs fresh tomatoes, skins removed
1 small Vidalia or Texas sweet onion, finely chopped
3 cups V-8 juice, no added salt
1 med green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 med cucumber, peeled, seeded, chopped

  1. Peel the tomatoes by scalding them in boiling water for 10 seconds. Skins will slip right off. Squeeze the seeds out and discard. Chop the remaining tomato flesh and set aside.
  2. In a very large ceramic or glass bowl, tear up the bread into small chunks. Add the minced garlic. Drizzle some of the olive oil over the bread and begin mashing it with a serving spoon until it becomes paste. Add olive oil as necessary until the bread is smooth.
  3. Stir in the remaining olive oil, then the vinegar.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes and onions, stir; add the V-8 juice.
  5. Mix in the green pepper and cucumber.
  6. Season with salt and pepper. Taste. It will be predominantly tomato.
  7. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Flavors will improve the longer it sits.
  8. Taste the mixture. The flavors should be mellower now, and this is the time to adjust the salt.
  9. Serve cold in large flat bowls with chunks of fresh French bread.


Per serving: Calories 197, Fat 10g, Protein 4g, Carb 19g, Fiber 3.7g, Chol 2mg, Sodium 76mg.
Food Exchanges: 1/2 Starch/Bread; 3 Vegetable; 2 Fat

HOT PEPPERS

For those of you who grow those prolific hot peppers, here's a terrific recipe for using some of the bounty.

Cream of Jalapeno Soup
Serves 8

3 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 Tbsp flour
3 cups chicken broth, ready to use
2 cups fat-free evaporated milk
1/4 stick unsalted butter (2 Tbsp)
1 large sweet onion, minced
1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 large green pepper, seeded and finely chopped
3 jalapeno peppers, seeded, diced finely
6 oz Laughing Cow low-fat Swiss, or similar
pepper
  1. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a small, heavy skillet over low heat.
  2. Add onion, carrot, and bell pepper. Saute until soft (about 8 minutes).
  3. Add chilies, stir and set aside.
  4. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large, heavy saucepan. Turn heat to low and add flour; stir for 3 minutes until flour begins to turn lightly brown.
  5. Add stock and stir quickly to blend. Add cream and mix thoroughly.
  6. Increase heat to medium and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
  7. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until mixture thickens.
  8. Add cheeses and stir until melted.
  9. Mix in the cooked vegetables.
  10. Season to taste. For spicier soup, top with diced jalapenos. Can be served either hot or cold. Serve with tortilla chips.

Per serving: Calories 191, Fat 9g, Protein 12g, Carb 16, Fiber 1g, Chol 28 mg, Sodium 275mg
Food Exchanges: 1 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 1-1/2 Fat

One of the best things about these summer vegetable soups is their flexibility. Most can be made up and kept on hand for quick lunch or dinner fixes.

RESOURCES:
All recipes are by Toni Leland.
All photos: Toni Leland, except chili pepper clipart
Nutritional analyses calculated using MasterCook; these values may vary if ingredients are substituted.