provençal vegetable soup {ffwd}

A Bowl of Provencal Veg Soup

Hot soup isn’t what I usually want to eat during the summer, especially when the weather is hot and humid. The things we do for French Fridays… Even though the temperature didn’t seem seasonal, the ingredient list certainly was, especially with tomato and corn. Between my farm share and a few things picked up at the farmers market, this soup turned out to be a masterpiece of local bounty. I also love anything with chickpeas.

Local Bounty

I made one modification when I read Dorie’s warning about the pasta getting mushy when reheating the soup. I made it the morning to serve for dinner that evening, so I knew reheating was in my soup’s future. I chose to cook the pasta separately, cool it down, and keep it in a separate container until later. I just stirred it in when I reheated the soup. It seems to have held up well, not just the night we had it with dinner, but also as leftovers.

Soup a-simmer

As I mentioned, the soup was a bit too hot for the weather, but it did taste delicious! It was amazing that just 3 minutes of simmering infused the vegetable broth with so much tomato flavor. I also enjoyed the drizzle of pesto (which I made sans Parmesan). Howard’s not a fan of zucchini, so he didn’t love it, but did pronounce it “OK”.

You can check out the other Doristas’ soups by following their links here. You can find the recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table.

We have a double-header this week. The zucchini plant that I planted about three weeks ago offered up two male blossoms this week. I picked them early in the morning and stored them in the fridge for the evening, when I would make two fried shrimp-filled zucchini blossoms. Unexpectedly, when I stopped by the Belmont Farmers Market in the afternoon, one of the vendors had bunches of pumpkin blossoms for sale, just $4 for just over a dozen, so I bought a bunch to add to my homegrown couple and make it a meal.

I was worried it would be hard, but I was able to pull the stamens out without ripping the blossoms (using tweezers). I stuffed half with shrimp and half with goat cheese mixed with chopped olives and pesto. Other Doristas raved about the batter, and they were right. I loved how it bubbled up and stayed frothy. I’m not a big deep-fryer, but if I were frying stuff again, I’d use this batter recipe.

zuccBatter

I enjoyed the fried blossoms. I also liked that there were multiple fillings. Once cooked, I couldn’t remember which were which, so the surprise on the first bite of each was fun. I’d make these again, as a once-a-year treat, if I come across blossoms again next summer.

zuccBlossoms

As a final note, I spent last weekend hanging out in New York City with Kathy, Cher, and Diane. What a blast! Diane already posted about our adventures here, so I won’t repeat, but I will include a photo of the four of us getting ready to go into Chelsea Market (This is Kathy’s picture, I won’t take credit). Here’s to more Dorista meetups in the future.

Doristas at Chelsea Market

Delicious AND Decorative!

BackyardHerbGarden

Herbs are wonderfully plentiful in the summer. I have a backdoor herb garden with many perennial (and a few annual) herbs waiting to be snipped as I need them. Favorites are several varieties of thyme, winter savory (meaning it’s perennial, unlike its cousin, summer savory), oregano, and tarragon. Annuals that I plant every year include rosemary, lemon verbena, and marjoram. This year, I’m also trying out Thai basil.

I also have a few basil plants interspersed between the cherry tomatoes in the vegetable garden. To be honest, I call it the vegetable garden, but it’s really the cherry tomato garden as that’s the only vegetable I’m growing (except for one zucchini plant in the hopes of getting some blossoms to stuff and fry). We also grew a bed of sugar snap peas earlier in the summer. So, back to the herbs.

In addition to what’s growing in my backyard, as part of my farm share, I can pick handfuls of several types of annual herbs each week: basil, parsley, cilantro, and dill. Other than the basil, these aren’t ones I bother to grow at home. The quantity I use and the schedule of readiness just don’t map with practicality.

I’ve had mixed results with storing fresh-cut herbs in the fridge. Even in plastic bags, with or without wrapping the stems in damp paper towels, they only last a few days before yellowing or drying up or rotting.

I’ve finally settled on a method that keeps the herbs fresh for a week or more with the added bonus of providing a decorative touch to my kitchen counter. I simply treat the bouquets of herbs as I would fresh flowers, using small pitchers or jars as vases.

Parsley, Cilantro, and Dill surround some fresh cut flowers.

Parsley, Cilantro, and Dill surround some fresh cut flowers.

In the case of basil, where sometimes, I’ve pinched the tops so there isn’t much of a stem, I float the cuttings in a bowl of water. The herbs stay green, and occasionally the basil tops will start to roots after a week.

Floating Basil Tops

Sometimes I hesitate to use the herbs (though only for a moment) because of how pretty they look!

Parsley

Chimichurri, the Argentine sauce, is a wonderful way to use a variety of mixed herbs. This recipe calls for equal amounts of cilantro and parsley with smaller amounts of mint and oregano, but that is just a guide. I find it best to stick with the recipe’s use of a large quantity of parsley and/or cilantro for the base and accent with your favorite herbs or the ones you have on hand. Chimichurri is delicious served on fish, chicken, steak or roasted or steamed vegetables.

Chimichurri

4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup cilantro
1 cup parsley
½ cup mint
¼ cup oregano
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup lemon juice
Red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper to taste
½ cup olive oil

Sauté minced garlic in a little olive oil for a few minutes to soften. Place herbs and sautéed garlic in the food processor until roughly chopped (do not puree). Transfer to a bowl or jar. Add lemon juice and vinegar. Season with red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste. Stir in olive oil, and let it sit for an hour or more so flavors can blend. Store chimichurri in the refrigerator, but let it come to room temperature before using.

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