Summer Squash Soup + Cheesy Zucchini Crispies

Our friend Terry said something to us last week about how culture is like a thumbprint embedded on our souls. Like a lot of things we don’t pick or ask for, that thumbprint is predetermined for us when we’re born; it surrounds us; we swim in it. Like the air we breath, our culture is part of everything we think and do, affecting us, being affected by us, and yet virtually unnoticeable. I am a different person because I was born into the geographic location of the Chicago suburbs and not South Florida or small-town Texas or northern California, I realize, the first child of a Midwestern couple who were starting a new business, not working at office jobs, and a new family, not a big one, in the early 1980s. My personality and perspectives have been affected by a childhood in private school instead of public school where my mom and not my dad cooked most nights and my family ate out often. I went to northern Wisconsin most summers, not the East or the West. It was normal to me that people sent annual Christmas cards and gifts required thank-you notes and when someone came over to your house you should try to be a good host.

Most of the ways I’ve been affected by the culture I grew up in are so tied up into the way I look at things and do things, I can only see them when I step outside that culture into a new one, like I’ve done over the last three years, surrounded by different people who didn’t grow up in Naperville, Illinois. Until I’m confronted with someone else’s reality—in a new place or in a new conversation, in a story over coffee or in a story on a big screen—it’s hard to see the world as bigger than what I experience with my own pair of eyes.

I’ve always been fascinated by this. It’s why I like books and blogs and meeting open people who will talk about their lives. It’s also part of what’s drawn me to a new book, Smitten with Squash (Northern Plate), from the Minnesota Historical Society, written by our blog friend Amanda Paa. It’s the fourth in what the MHS calls The Northern Plate Series, a book collection that celebrates, one by one, foods that are beloved and prolific in the American Midwest.

Summer Squash Soup + Cheesy Zucchini Crispies
Summer Squash Soup + Cheesy Zucchini Crispies
Summer Squash Soup + Cheesy Zucchini Crispies
Summer Squash Soup + Cheesy Zucchini Crispies

If you didn’t grow up in the middle of the United States, you may or may not be familiar with the annual bumper crop of squash everybody’s talking about around this time of year. But when I was a kid, summer meant people would bring bags of zucchini to school or to church, handing them out to anyone who wanted them and would use them up. People put zucchini in cakes at church potlucks. There were zucchini gratins and zucchini slices roasted on the grill. And apparently what I experienced in Illinois is not too different from what others experienced in Minnesota, nor what Tim and I experienced at our farm pickup last week when there was a take-as-much-as-you-can approach going on with the plethora of summer squash.

“Summer squash is promiscuous without even trying to be,” Amanda writes. “It’s a shame they are sometimes taken for granted, which most often happens when they are growing at the speed of weeds.”

It’s funny, but when I read those words, I mostly think how much it makes sense to me, how alike a life in Minnesota can be to a life in Illinois, how people in certain regions have relatable experiences simply because of weather and the way things grow. I like when it’s easy to picture what someone else is talking about. I like it when what someone’s saying makes sense, even if that something he or she is saying is about a simple, fairly basic thing like food.

Summer Squash Soup + Cheesy Zucchini Crispies

I watched that popular Brene Brown video on empathy with my friend Rachel yesterday; maybe you’ve seen it? If you haven’t, it’s worth watching, if only because Brene raises the very valid point that relating to someone else’s condition can take effort. While, sometimes, finding a relatable quality in another person is as simple as squash, sometimes it’s a lot of talking and listening and hunting for the always available “me too” buried inside each one of us with one another. Listening to someone else’s life experiences, coming alongside him or her to step into a new pair of shoes, can hurt—because what that person experiences hurts. Bearing one another’s burdens can be awkward and uncomfortable and make me feel like I have no idea what to say.

I am learning to recognize that initial struggle, that wanting to push away the they’re-too-different problem to focus on something else, is a symptom of my own unique culture and perspective. It’s a sign that this person isn’t exactly like me, not in the obvious surface ways of summer squash soup recipes and harsh winters and families that celebrate birthdays by going out to eat, and so I must force myself to remember he or she is like me, too. Even with different geography and genetics and birth order and finances and interests, all of us humans are people birthed onto the earth without warning, without asking for it, without getting to pick the family we’ll live in or the town we’ll call home. Part of the great human experience is dwelling in one place while realizing it is not the only one, living one kind of life while interacting with people who live different ones, being present in the day you’re being given while being open to entering into someone else’s. And even if you live in a town with two people, if you’re reading this blog you have an Internet connection and the ability to read and that means you have endless windows available to you, letting you into other people’s souls. Everything everybody’s doing is telling you about himself or herself. There’s so much to learn about one another if we’ll listen.

Summer Squash Soup + Cheesy Zucchini Crispies


Serving Size: 2 for soup / more for crispies

Summer Squash Soup + Cheesy Zucchini Crispies

As mentioned above, the idea for this recipe comes from Amanda Paa's Smitten with Squash (Northern Plate) cookbook, which we were sent a copy of, and the cheesy zucchini crisps are an adaptation of her zatar-spiced Parmesan zucchini crisps on page 21.

As written, this recipe makes simple, fresh, squash-flavored soup for two and cheesy zucchini crispies for a crowd. This is because I quadrupled the original cheesy crisps recipe in favor of the rather large amount of squash I had shredded in the food processor.... and I made extra. If you, on the other hand, want just a few crispies, reduce the crisps recipe by four (i.e., try shredding 1/2 squash to start).

Public service announcement: I don't recommend eating more than five crispies in one sitting, just from my own personal experience, even though once you taste a bite, you'll want to.


    for the soup:
  • 3 yellow zucchini squash, chopped into rounds
  • 1 leek, chopped into rounds
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/8 cup milk
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • for the cheesy zucchini crispies:
  • 1 1/2 large yellow zucchini squash, chopped (or 2 cups shredded zucchini)
  • 3 3/4 cups shredded Pecorino cheese
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons Italian (or za'atar) seasoning
  • Optional extra fried basil:
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 6 to 10 leaves of fresh basil


Fill a large stockpot with three quarts of water (and a pinch of salt, if desired), and bring to a boil over medium to high heat. Add chopped squash and leeks, cover the pot and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for about 20 minutes or until vegetables are fork-tender.

Meanwhile, start the cheesy zucchini crispies: Preheat the oven to 375F/190C and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the chopped zucchini in a food processor until it's shredded. Then, place the shredded zucchini in a tea towel and wring it out over the sink as much as possible to remove the excess water. In a large bowl, combine the wrung-out squash with cheese, olive oil and seasoning. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and scoop spoonfuls of the mixture onto prepared baking sheets. Flatten each one, leaving room between each mound. Bake crispies for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown and shimmering. (I did this in two batches, i.e., four sheets total.) When crispies are done, remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a serving dish.

Once vegetables are softened, drain the water from the pot. Then, in the same pot, mash vegetables with a large fork or a potato masher until smashed throughout. Add butter, milk, salt and pepper, and mash with a large fork until combined. Then, use an immersion blender to smooth out the mixture (alternative: transfer mixture in batches to a Vitamix or food processor). You want to almost purée the mixture but not quite, so that there are still some chunks throughout. Taste and adjust for salt as you like.

Serve soup hot, topped with cheesy zucchini crispies and, if desired, the fried basil leaves (see below).

Optional extra step:

Warm a tablespoon of coconut oil in a small saucepan until hot. Lay basil leaves inside for a minute or two, until crisp. Remove to a paper-towel-lined plate to dry. (This is very easy and very fast but fairly impressive and fun.)

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 27 Comments

  1. Jacqui

    My zucchini plant is about to burst with squash in the next few days! Beautiful post, Shanna, as always. Makes me think that if Murdo and I have kids, they’ll be shaped by what I learned from my culture, and what he learned from his culture, and what we’re learning along the way together. Kinda crazy. Happy Friday, guys!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      I CANNOT WAIT to meet your future children.

  2. Kate

    At any time, should you wish for a visit to Minnesota, to see it’s beauty and green spaces and long, winding river; to breathe in it’s food culture and outdoors and the honest Midwestern hospitality, I have no doubt Amanda and I could help you out. It never ceases to amaze me the connections we can make through an internet line. :-)

    1. Shanna Mallon

      : ) I’d love that, Kate!

  3. felicia | Dish by Dish

    Shanna! Loved this post. I know how being in a different culture makes you take a step back and review that which you’ve always seens as your reality, your truth. Moving from Singapore to Buenos Aires is as large a change as the distance separating both cities; and culturally, both are black and white. Yet, I feel that being exposed to people who are so unlike me, or who were born in families so distinct, and eat food so strikingly different, is what helps me appreciate the culture from which I came from and still swim in – but also helps me embrace the people who may seem different in how they look or talk or dress, and realize that despite different skin colors and features, ultimately we all seek love, kindness and faith in others.

    Totally feel like we could be friends, even if I never had seasons growing up in Singapore, and even if I’ve never stepped foot on US soil (apart from hawaii, although that doesnt really count, does it?). Thanks for getting my Friday to a thoughful start. love you Shanna!

    xoxo, F

    1. Shanna Mallon

      I love how it’s not just the culture we grow up in that shapes us and that we shape, but also whatever cultures we find ourselves in and apart of throughout life. Like Jacqui said above, it’s amazing how we’re shaped by our parents and our childhoods and also our friendships and then the new families we’re making and on and on it goes. Fascinating.

  4. Beth

    This soup sounds absolutely amazing. I can’t wait to try it – and love that I already have all of the ingredients for it in my kitchen and garden.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Yay! Hope you enjoy, Beth! I like how clean it is in flavor (i.e., a squash soup that truly, really tastes squashy). It makes me think of Julia Child and how she always said roast chicken is good when it tastes “chickeny.” : )

  5. TJ

    I was born in the Midwest, so I had a lot of squash as a kid :) This post was a lovely way to remember that.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      I’m so glad, TJ! Thanks for saying so.

  6. Sini | my blue&white kitchen

    A wonderfully written post and a gorgeous recipe. Those zucchini crisps just look amazing.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Aw, thank you, sweet Sini!

  7. Joyti

    I love this. Not only for the recipe – which looks great btw – for the openness, the honesty, the feelings and you’ve evoked. I grew up in a working class Northern California family, which has a HUGE influence on who I am :)

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Thanks, Joyti. I’m so thankful for the “me too”s I feel when I read your writing and when you read mine.

  8. Thalia @ butter and brioche

    wow this soup is perfect for the winter weather we’re experiencing right now in Australia.. and those cheesy zucchini crisps look to die for! yum..

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Thalia, One of my favorite parts of social media is watching opposite weather across the world. Talk about enlarging my perspective! Thanks for doing that here. Happy souping!

  9. Rebecca

    Oh my, yes! Zucchini. Grows like crazy in Oregon too! :)
    And I love everything about your perspective on culture- beautiful!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Thank you, Rebecca!

  10. Krista Dial

    I think I just might make these cheesy zucchini crispies tomorrow. I have some fresh from the garden. Sounds absolutely delicious, Shanna! Your photos are just lovely too! :)

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Thanks so much, Krista! I see you know Aubrey — any friend of hers is a friend of mine. Welcome! : )

  11. Amanda Paa

    Thank you so, so much for this beautiful post. When you mentioned people trying to get rid of their squash harvest in church basements or the school parking lot, I was taken right there in my memories. And you’re so right – we do have so much learn about one another if we’ll listen…..

    I will treasure the words in this post forever and surely need to meet you in real life sooner than later! I’m glad you liked the zucchini crispies and that soup sounds wonderful. When your cookbook comes out, you know I will be one of the first ones there supporting your wonderful work.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Oh, Amanda, you’re so welcome! We’re glad to know you in this blog world and you’re welcome in Nashville anytime. : )

  12. Pingback: Zucchini and Goat Cheese Breakfast Crostini - Joanne Eats Well With Others

  13. Toby

    This was very easy and delicious! I added toasted pumpkin seeds and some cubed up raw zucchini. Thanks for sharing! Beautiful pictures :)

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Oh, Toby, I’m so glad! Thanks for coming back to say so!

  14. Tracy | PeanutButter and Onion

    This looks wonderful! Can’t wait to try it out on my guests this weekend.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Hope you enjoy!

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