Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday Summer Soup, Menton

A quick & wonderful soup that I make a lot. This is a tweaked post from last August (2008) on Giulia Geranium. While I have since acquired a new blender, I remain camera-less (save a disposable), & so yes, this is a scan of a basil sprig. What can I say? Last summer I was a bit stir-crazy. Enjoy & think of Julia Child as her birthday was yesterday (August 15). Ciao!

Soup Menton

This is an excellent summer soup that allows you to take full advantage of your garden (or the farmer’s market). A few shelled peas or several tiny cauliflower flowerettes may be added to it.

8 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, finely minced
1-pound fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded
2 cups new potatoes, cut into small cubes
2 cups young green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 small zucchini, cut into cubes
½ cup broken-up spaghetti*
1-cup fresh basil leaves
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons freshly grated parmeggiano cheese (if you don’t have fresh, leave it out, you’ll live)
3 egg yolks (optional, but see note below)

1. In a large casserole heat 3 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onions and cook without browning for 3 to 5 minutes.

2. Add the tomatoes, potatoes, & beans. Season with salt & pepper & cover with 6 to 8 cups of water. Bring the mixture to a boil & reduce the heat. Simmer the soup partially covered for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are almost tender.

3. Add the zucchini & spaghetti and continue simmering the soup for 12 to 15 minutes more or until all the vegetables are tender. Do not overcook. The soup must retain its freshness.

4. While the soup is simmering, combine the basil, garlic, & parmeggiano in a blender. Add enough of the remaining olive oil to make a smooth paste. You will need about 5 tablespoons.

5. Just before serving (off the heat), whisk the basil paste into the soup. Correct the seasoning & serve.

For a more refined soup, mix the egg yolks with a little more of the broth, & whisk the egg-yolk mixture into the soup. In this case, the soup must not come to a boil again or the yolks will curdle.

A firm tomato, peeled, seeded & cut into tiny cubes, is a lovely addition to the soup just before serving. When including peas in the soup, they should be added no more than 5 to 8 minutes before the soup is done. Cauliflower flowerettes can be added together with the zucchini.

©Recipe from Perla Meyers, The Seasonal Kitchen, A Return to Fresh Foods, Vintage Books edition, 1975.

*Remarks. Ahem. This is an old (early 1970s) cookbook & some things might drive the au courant version of a food snob mad, such as breaking up spaghetti & tossing it into a soup. Stop the hissy fits, it’s so unbecoming. Intentional pasta breakage occurs in Italian & French kitchens every day of the week. It is a good way to use those odd bits at the bottom of boxes & such. Just don’t do it when you’re serving pasta as the star.

About the eggs: it makes a divine difference & highly recommended to non-vegans & French-fancy-averse cooks who are chicken (ha!) about it. Still, don’t do it if you aren’t going to use the egg whites for omelettes or soufflés or meringues (freeze them). Egg whites make a fabulous facial masque, by the by. Haven’t done it in years, but I'm fairly sure egg whites haven’t changed. Anyway, the yolks aren’t necessary but do try it at least once to show how open-minded, sophisticated, & non-alarmist you are about eggs-as-lethal weapons.

NOTE: In the sidebar, under Dept. of Travel, Jilly Bennett has two wonderful photo blogs from the South of France. She lives in Menton & the soup post led me to her photography, blogs, & her animal rescue work in France. She's been so very generous in allowing me to use a few photographs on Giulia G's blog. She's featuring a lavender festival in Sainte-Agnès currently--it's a gorgeous series.