Soupe au Pistou with Thyme

RECIPE: Soupe au Pistou with Thyme
Soupe au Pistou

Vegetable broth, leeks, carrots, haricots verts, and zucchini with haricots beans and stelline pasta and thyme–and, of course–basil pesto.

If there is one thing I love most about my mother’s cooking, it’s her soups.

Creamy carrot.  Lima bean.  Barley.  Lentil.  She made, and makes, them endlessly, in huge pots that find their way into the back of the fridge, so we can spoon out bowlfuls to heat up when the fancy takes us.  They are always vegetarian.  Light soups, but hearty.  The kind of thing that you can have at nine o’clock and they will soothe away your day, but not weigh down your night.  Perfect concoctions filled with health and happiness and warmth.

Soupe au Pistou 2

Soupe au pistou is a traditional soup in my mother’s soup vein–and native, like her, to Provence.  The soup itself is a simple broth brimming with chunks of hearty vegetables–carrots, leeks, zucchini, and haricots verts.  Then, for heft, haricot beans (or use Great Northern or cannellini if you can’t find the French originals), and pasta.  I use stelline, or little stars, for their bite-sizedness, and also their little wink of whimsy, which makes me smile.  The soup couldn’t be easier.  Just some chopped vegetables sautéed in olive oil, stewed in vegetable broth or water, and bulked up with beans (straight from the can in my case!) and baby pasta.  It’s done in 40 minutes with barely any attention.

Why it’s called soupe au pistou is because it’s always, always topped with a brimming spoonful (or two!) of pistou–a nutless version of pesto.  I smash up the garlic and basil–with a handful of baby spinach to keep it green and add more goodness–and stir in just slightly too much olive oil and good parmesan cheese.  The garlic starts to perfume the hot soup on contact, the basil seeps into every spoonful, and the olive oil and cheese start to melt in.

It is, very simply, the best vegetable soup.

Soupe au Pistou 3

I have a big pot in the back of my fridge right now.

Soupe au Pistou with Thyme
serves 6

Soupe au Pistou 2INGREDIENTS

  • 8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound of carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts diced
  • 1 pound zucchini, diced
  • 1/2 pound haricots verts, trimmed and diced
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/8 ounce thyme on the stem (10 to 12 stems), tied with kitchen twine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 cups vegetable broth or water, or a mixture of the two
  • 1 14.5-ounce can haricot beans, or Great Northern or cannellini if not available, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 pound stelline pasta
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 cups, packed, fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup, packed, baby spinach leaves
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

METHOD

In a large stockpot over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Follow with the carrots, leeks, zucchini, and haricots verts, and season with salt and pepper.  Make sure all the vegetables are chopped to roughly the same size.  Stir often for 10 minutes to sweat the vegetable, ensuring none of them brown.

Add the thyme, bay leaf, and vegetable broth, and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.  Once the soup is bubbling, cover, and lower the heat to a simmer.  Cook for 20 minutes, and then add the haricot beans and the stelline pasta.  Raise the heat to high and boil, partially covered, stirring often, for 10 minutes.  Take out the thyme bundle and the bay leaf and discard.

While the soup is cooking, making the pistou.  Smash the garlic in the food processor, and add the basil and spinach.  Pulse to a rubble.  Season with salt and pepper and add the remaining 6 tablespoons of olive oil.  Whiz to combine, and stir into the grated Parmigiano cheese.  Set aside.

To serve, ladle the soup into a bowl, and top with a spoonful of pistou.  You can garnish with fresh thyme leaves, extra Parmigiano Reggiano, or a drizzle of olive oil if the mood strikes.

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Eat, Soup, Soup & Salad, Vegetarian
 

Whole Wheat Summer Tomato Spaghetti with Fresh Yellow Tomatoes and Fresh Market Red Pesto

RECIPE: Whole Wheat Summer Tomato Spaghetti

Summer Tomato Spaghetti

I have a real preoccupation with pesto in the summertime.  When I was little, my mom and I used to spend the summer in Woodstock, in upstate New York.  We would rent a house–this big white one–in the mountains, and I would pick wild flowers and ride horses and play with the wild turkeys and rabbits in our yard.  It was Eden for a city child.

And a city child I certainly was (and continue to be) and my mom was most definitely a city mom (though she tries to resist).  As though there could be nothing to be found to eat outside of the river borders of Manhattan, we used to drive through the heat into the city to collect supplies from Fairways (olives, fromage frais, vegetarian hot dogs) and this little ravioli shop just by Houston street that sold these fabulous frozen boxes of neatly piled ravioli in a wild array of flavors.  [Ahh!  I just Googled it after all these years and discovered it's called Raffetto's.]  I can’t say how many boxes we would buy at a time, but I think my mom may have been running some kind of Woodstock ravioli racket–our freezer looked just like the shop, all the boxes neatly stacked and ready to take the plunge into the boiling water.

The only culinary concession my mom made to the country at that time was this farm stand out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by corn fields.  It was iconic, the way I picture the American countryside now that I am so far from it.  They sold “watermelon juice”, which was really just warm watermelon (seeds still intact–this was the ’80s!), whirled up in the blender and sipped through a straw.  I loved it.  And they sold mountains of summer fresh basil.  This basil, maman would whiz up herself into these phenomenal pestos, the scent of which would linger on the hot summer air, wafting from our bowls of cheese ravioli, and hanging over the back deck where we ate, and the lawn behind.  For me, it is the ultimate smell of comfort, reminding me viscerally of childhood, of summertime, of being happily full and free.

I went the farmers’ market last weekend in Marylebone with my friend Mary (it was her genius idea), and we found a pesto man called Seriously Italian.  I often make my own pestos, and have experimented far and wide in the genre, but his neat little pots and inventive flavors and discount when you bought more than one led me to buy basil, pistachio, and “red”.  I love red pesto because it, of course, contains tomatoes, but also because it is the traditional pesto, or pistou, from Provence–which, incidentally also reminds me of summers with maman, because we so often meet in Provence and I always order spaghetti with red pesto on our first night in.

Anyway, back to this recipe.  What I also found at this market was a fresh summer tomato vendor–there is nothing like summer for tomatoes.  She was selling one-pound bags of yellow grapes tomatoes.  I thought to myself, done.  A double summer tomato pasta.

The sauce is made while the pasta is cooking.  I just blitz the yellow grape tomatoes into shards in the food processor, and then add good sea salt.  Then I just let it sit and the salt draws all the liquid out of the tomatoes into its on fresh sauce.  Then, after the liquid has been drawn, I whisk in a jar of good red pesto (you can of course make this yourself, and you can also use fresh basil pesto).  Then, just toss the pasta in.  The hot pasta sucks up all the tomato juice, and the garlic and cheese and herbs in the red pesto wake up with the heat and start wafting away like maman’s pesto on the terrace.  You could do this with regular semolina pasta, but we all know I’ve been on a health kick, so I used whole wheat.  And you could use any shape–I think rigatoni would also be especially good, because the tomatoes and pesto would get stuck inside all the tubes and they’d explode with freshness in your mouth.

This is just so effortless, so summer, so fresh and light and happy-making.  I devoured the leftovers last night in a meal that I had been anticipating since breakfast at the office.  It’s just lovely.

Whole Wheat Summer Tomato Spaghetti
serves 2 to 4

Summer Tomato SpaghettiINGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound yellow and / or red grape or cherry tomatoes
  • Sea salt
  • 1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
  • 3.5 ounces red pesto or pistou
  • Olive oil or torn basil or fresh grated Parmesan for garnish (optional)

PROCEDURE

Put the tomatoes into the food processor and pulse them into a rubble—not smooth, but not too chunky either.  Put them in a bowl with 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt, such as Maldon (if using a finer salt, just use less of it).  Let the tomatoes sit for 15 minutes to begin to release their juices.

Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until al dente.  Drain.    Add the salted tomatoes and red pesto to the pasta pot, and stir together.  Add the pasta, and toss to combine.  Serve.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Sides, Starches, Vegetarian, Vegetarian
 

Organic Lentil and Beet Salad with Crottin de Chèvre

RECIPE: Instant Organic Lentil and Beet Salad with Fresh Herbs and Crottin de Chèvre

Lentil and Beet SaladWe all know I walk the line between healthy and indulgent with the perched danger of a Flying Wallenda.  But the temperatures have been soaring.  My wedding is impending.  And I have officially retreated into a world of salads.  But I can’t get through real life on lettuce.  So I’ve been conjuring together some health-ish salads that are also hearty and, I hope, full of nutrients and flavor.  This Beet and Lentil Salad is one of them.

My grocery store, bless it, sells pre-cooked organic beets, which makes this salad instantaneous.  I dice up the beets as tiny as I can, so they matche the mini du Puy lentils that are also instantaneous: they come organic and canned.  To these I add fresh thyme and parsley, a simple whole-grain mustard vinaigrette with extra virgin olive oil, and on top, a cumbling of crottin de chèvre, which I think has more bite and heft than a plain fresh goat cheese, although you could certainly substitute that.

The beets are a bit sweet, the vinaigrette quite savory, the lentils hearty, the herbs fresh, and the cheese, salty and creamy and cool.  The beets bleed their sweet, earthy juice over everything else as this sits, and it comes together as one.  The great thing about it is, when I pack it in my lunchbox, it’s so filling that I can’t even finish it (I hate being starving at 4 PM), and I feel like it’s full of vitamins that I probably wouldn’t normally be getting, as beets and lentils are not something, like apples, that I eat every day.

I used the leftovers as a side dish for the sausage and grape roast I posted last week.  It’s just versatile and great.  I hope you like it!

Lentil and Beet Salad

As featured in FrenchEntrée’s 100 French recipes to celebrate 100 issues of FrenchEntrée magazine

Instant Organic Lentil and Beet Salad with Fresh Herbs and Crottin de Chèvre
serves 4 to 6

Lentil and Beet SaladINGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon grain mustard
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • A small drizzle of honey
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cans of Puy lentils, preferably organic, drained and rinsed
  • 6 small- to medium-sized cooked and peeled and cooled beets (some stores sell them this way, which makes this recipe a cinch), finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 crottin de chèvre, crumbled (optional)

PROCEDURE

In a large bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, and shallot and let stand for 5 minutes.  Add the honey, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and whisk until emulsified.  Add in the lentils, beets, and herbs.  Season to taste.  Plate, and scatter the goat cheese over the top.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Recipes, Salad, Soup & Salad, Vegetarian
 

Sausages Baked with Radicchio and Grapes

RECIPE: Sausages Baked with Radicchio and Grapes with Balsamic Glaze

Sausages with Radicchio and Grapes

I was moved to lascivious greed by this video from Melissa Clark on the New York Times website.   She chars up sausages and radicchio on the grill, and tops them with basil.  It’s so light and summery, but also interesting and different.  But, where I live, grilling outside is against-the-bylaws impossible.

Sausages with Radicchio and Grapes Raw

A tray full of grapes, sausage, radicchio, and thyme before it goes in the oven

I asked myself, how can I make this as easily as Melissa does, but is perhaps more year-round?  I’ve also been seeing the apparently Tuscan tradition of roasting meat with grapes, and decided to see what I could do with merging it all together.

Sausages with Radicchio and Grapes in the Pan

Fresh from the oven…crisp, charred, and collapsed

This is such a cool, grape-led dish.  And to know me is to know I love grapes–especially Muscat and Concord; but for this, I just used plain old table grapes.  I started with the best organic pork sausage I could find, or you could use turkey for something lighter.  Pierce the sausage just a couple of times with the tip of a knife, and toss it in a tray (LOVE doesn’t begin to describe the way I feel about these stove-to-oven-to-table Falcon enamel trays that I evangelize to everyone who visits me in England) with a big head of radicchio that I’ve quartered and some red and green grapes and thyme and olive oil and sea salt and cracked black pepper.  I think using both colors of grape (in my supermarket, you can buy a package that includes both) and leaving them ‘on the vine’ is really beautiful and honest.

Just bake the whole thing for about 25 minutes in a hot oven.  The sausages, because you’ve pricked them, baste and crisp in their own juices.  The outer leaves of radicchio blacken and char.  The grapes still pop, but are warm and sweet and juicy.  To add to the grape mix, I drizzle some thick, reduced balsamic over the top, along with some fresh olive oil, and serve with a serious amount of good crusty country bread.

Sausages Baked with Grapes

You can leave them in the pan, or plate them on a platter

It’s such an easy dinner, but it’s an unexpected one.  I made this for two late one night after work, but I think it’s the perfect weekend lunch for a crowd as well.

Sausages Baked with Radicchio and Grapes with Balsamic Glaze
serves 2

Sausages Baked with GrapesINGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 medium to large head of radicchio, quartered and cored
  • 10 ounces of red and / or green grapes on the stem
  • 6 to 8 links of excellent sausage, lightly pierced
  • A small bunch of thyme on the stem
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling

PROCEDURE

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  Place the balsamic in a small pot over medium heat, and leave to simmer and reduce by half.

In a large oven tray, toss the radicchio, grapes, and thyme stems with salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Spread the ingredients to a single layer (I like to group the grapes with the grapes, sausage with sausage, et cetera, for aesthetic reasons, and then scatter the thyme throughout) and roast until the sausage are cooked through, about 25 minutes.  As soon as the vinegar has reduced by half, leave it aside to cool and thicken.

To serve, drizzle with as much balsamic glaze as you like, and some fresh olive oil, and cut up some crusty country bread.  Bon app!

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Meat, Poultry, Recipes
 

Le Macaron Frappé Milkshake for Bastille Day

RECIPE: The Macaron Frappé

Some celebrations of Bastille Day are big and fun and fabulous, like watching the Can-Can dancers perform on the bar in the old Florent in NYC.  Some, much more low key, like playing pétanque with Mr. English and a bottle of dry Breton apple cider in the garden.  The point is, July is a very patriotic moment, and just like I dragged Mr. English to Pitt Cue at ten o’clock last Thursday to take a bite of Americana on the Fourth, so must I do at least a little something on the Quatorze.  A tip of my hat, or my béret, to my heritage.

I can’t think of any better way to celebrate in the dead of summer heat (even here in London!) than with this utterly ridiculous iced extravaganza of a drink.  If you think of Bastille Day as the end of the bread-and-water regimen (although, if it was French bread and water…) of prison, then this pool of decadence couldn’t shout independence any louder.  The Macaron Frappé.  I buy macarons, and whiz them up with ice cream, milk, and ice, for a thick, cold, creamy, and decidedly unique riff on a milkshake.

I usually make this with either pistachio or orange flower macarons--my two favorites.  The flavor of the macaron itself flavors the frappé very lightly, and then there are the almondy crunchy crumbs that disperse throughout.  The little pellets of perfectly diamond-hard ice.  The swish and swirl of the milk and ice cream.  It’s insane!  Part granita.  Part milkshake.  Part Frappuccino.  Part Ladurée.  No French patissier could condone it.  But it is beyond bon.  I prefer it to regular milkshakes because it has more texture and interest from the macaron, but it’s also lighter, cut with ice and flavored so delicately.

And, you could adapt it like maman does, and go crazy: pair coffee macarons with coffee ice cream.  Pistachio with pistachio.  Raspberry with raspberry sorbet.  For me, the vanilla lets the macaron shine through best, but who am I to dictate your frappé?  It is independence day, after all.

Happy Quatorze, mes amis!

Macaron Frappé Up Close

Check out that texture! Like a creamy French-American granita.

As featured in FrenchEntrée’s 100 French recipes to celebrate 100 issues of FrenchEntrée magazine

The Macaron Frappé
serves 1

Macaron FrappéINGREDIENTS

  • 1 macaron (about ½ ounce), in any flavor you like
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vanilla ice cream
  • 1 cup of ice (about 8 ice cubes)

PROCEDURE

Put everything in the blender, and whiz until you get a slushy.  Crumble extra macaron on top as a garnish, and serve with a straw.

NOTES

If you can’t find macarons, amaretto cookies make a good substitute.

You can also change up the flavors: do a coffee macaron with coffee ice cream, or pistachio with pistachio.  Or, do a raspberry macaron or lemon with vanilla ice cream.  The possibilities are endless.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Desserts, Drinks, Easy, Eat, Frozen, Recipes, Virgin
 

Crottin de Chèvre and Roasted Cherry Tomato Tartine with Fresh Herbs and Honey

RECIPE: Crottin de Chèvre and Roasted Cherry Tomato Tartine with Fresh Herbs and Honey

Crottin and Tomato Tartine

It was a surprise sunny Sunday afternoon here in London, and I wanted to make something to match.  I had that Poilâne bread I’d picked up when I passed by the shop last week.  Slightly past its peak, but perfect for a crisp tartine.  I’d recently been reunited with an old favorite I’d somehow forgotten about when I was in Paris a few weekends ago: warm salad with crottin de chèvre.  Remember when that was so popular in those California-style salads?  I had kind of gone off it, but after a reunion at Les Deux Magots, I realized I was the one missing out.

So, on Sunday, I made this little version.  I put cherry tomatoes and olive oil under the broiler until they popped and charred and wept tomato juice everywhere.  Then, I broiled the crottin into the bread, and spooned the tomatoes over the top.  Then fresh herbs: little lovely leaves of globe basil that I love getting this time of year, and fresh thyme, had I had any.  Sea salt.  Black pepper.  And, finally, a crowning drizzle on honey–thyme blossom if you’ve got it.

It was fresh, salty, sweet, hearty.  And the best part was the way the tomatoes burst like soft-boiled eggs, exploded their delicious freshness all over the plate.

Crottin and Tomato Tartine

As featured in FrenchEntrée’s 100 French recipes to celebrate 100 issues of FrenchEntrée magazine

Crottin de Chèvre and Roasted Cherry Tomato Tartine with Fresh Herbs and Honey
serves 2

Crottin and Tomato TartineINGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 pound cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • 2 Crottins de Chèvre (about 5 ounces total)
  • 2 large or 4 smaller slices of good pain au levain, such as Poilâne
  • Globe basil or thyme leaves
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • A drizzle of honey, preferably thyme flower!

PROCEDURE

Preheat the broiler with the oven rack in the top third of the oven.  Toss the cherry tomatoes with the olive oil and a good pinch of salt, and spread onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Broil for 5 to 10 minutes, until they have just begun to soften and char and burse.  Pour the tomatoes and their juice into a bowl, and set aside.

Slice each crottin into 4 discs, and arrange them on the bread.  Place the bread on a rack inside a rimmed baking sheet, and broil just until the corners of the breads toasts and the cheese softens: 2 minutes.  Place the tartines on a plate, and top with the roasted tomatoes and their juice, salt, pepper, leaves of fresh basil and / or thyme, and a very light drizzle of honey.  Devour immediately.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Bread & Butter, Easy, Eat, Recipes, Sandwiches, Vegetarian
 

Tender Turkey Meatballs with Grilled Zucchini

RECIPE: Tender Turkey Meatballs with Grilled Zucchini

Turkey Meatballs with Grilled ZucchiniI have to say, I am PARTICULARLY proud of this recipe.  And I feel like it is very Summer-Sunday-Night-Supper.  I only wished it weren’t so filling, so I could have eaten more of it.

Lately, I’ve really been on the pescatarian train.  But sometimes I just want to say, to hell with it, I want me some Mulberry Street spaghetti and meatballs.  I feel like this is an excellent compromise (Mr. English is probably scoffing that I’m even attempting the word–I’m very all or nothing!).  A bed of thick slabs of grilled zucchini, marinated in olive oil, herbs, and garlic, piled high with bold, juicy, and tender meatballs, stewed in really good tomato sauce (I buy the best jarred one I can find to keep this in my weeknight repertoire).  I made this around 9:30 the other night, and we crashed on the couch with big bowls of steaming meatballs, watching TV.  It was epically wonderful.  The meatballs, aided by their breadcrumbs, and stuffed full of meaty flavor with the Worcestershire and ketchup and herbs and garlic, were fork-fall-apart perfect.  And the zucchini was a nice fresh summer counterpoint, instead of a bowl of spaghetti.  I was so proud!

I was only disappointed that I couldn’t fit the last meatball into my stomach.  I hate to waste something so good.

Tender Turkey Meatballs with Grilled Zucchini
serves 2 to 3

Turkey Meatballs with Grilled ZucchiniTurkey Meatballs

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound ground dark meat turkey
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon herbes de Provence
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • S&P
  • 1 24-ounce jar of tomato sauce
  • Fresh globe basil leaves for garnish

PROCEDURE

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients until just combined.  Form mixture into 8 meatballs, and place on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Transfer to a sauté pan with the tomato sauce, and simmer, covered for 25 minutes, adding water if the sauce becomes too thick.  Serve over the zucchini, topped with fresh basil.  (I wouldn’t complain if you wanted to shave over some good Parm or Pecorino either!)

Grilled Zucchini

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 medium zucchini
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons herbes de Provence
  • 1 clove of garlic, grated
  • S&P

PROCEDURE

Slice each zucchini into 4 long planks.  Toss with olive oil, herbes de Provence, garlic, and S&P.  Place on a hot grill pan, and sear 5 minutes on each side.

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Eat, Main Courses, Poultry, Recipes