Chilled Grilled Zucchini Soup with Watercress, Dill and Lemon Zest
Chilled Grilled Zucchini Soup with Watercress, Dill and Lemon Zest Photo courtesy of Alaina Sullivan

As you’d expect from a gal who works as an artist, photographer and graphic designer, Alaina Sullivan’s food is as pleasing to the eye as it is to the taste buds. On her award-winning blog, palate/palette/plate, the New York City artist/cook grounds her recipes in seasonal ingredients and presentations that are elemental but never boring. Witness her chilled zucchini soup: The simple summer number gets its intriguing flavor from grilled zucchini and its vibrant green hue from peppery watercress and feathery dill. The result is a light and pretty first course that’s particularly fitting for an alfresco dinner party.

Makes 6 servings
Start to Finish: 2 hours 45 minutes (includes chilling time)


6 medium zucchini--trimmed, peeled and cut lengthwise into ¼-inch slices

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for garnish

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)

3 cups vegetable broth, preferably homemade

1 bunch watercress, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)

½ cup fresh dill, finely chopped

2 tablespoons lemon zest

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Roughly chopped roasted hazelnuts, for garnish


1. Prepare a fire for direct cooking in your grill or heat a large skillet or grill pan over medium-high heat. In a large bowl, toss the zucchini with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Grill the zucchini slices until grill marks appear and the slices begin to soften, about 4 minutes per side. (If using a skillet, cook the zucchini in batches until soft and well browned, about 4 minutes per side.)

2. Transfer the zucchini to a cutting board and let cool slightly. Meanwhile, warm the remaining tablespoon olive oil in the skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer the onion to a large bowl.

3. Roughly chop the zucchini and add to the bowl. Add the broth, watercress, dill, lemon zest and lemon juice. Working in batches, transfer the soup to a blender and puree until smooth.

4. Add additional broth, if necessary, to thin the soup. Season with salt, pepper and additional lemon juice, if desired. Pour the soup into a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

5. Divide the soup among six bowls. Garnish with the hazelnuts, black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve immediately.

Finishing Touches

It's the details that count! Try these tips

  • Use an immersion blender, like Cuisinart’s SmartStick version, to puree the soup quickly.

  • This versatile soup also goes well with grilled salmon. You can also top it with additional chopped dill or fresh lemon zest, a dollop of crème fraîche or plain yogurt, or even sautéed bay shrimp.

  • See more of Alaina Sullivan’s creations on her blog, palate/palette/plate.

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