Let others have taco Tuesday. We’re having soup.
I’m always asking my friends what they’re making for dinner. One person in our household thinks that, carpe diem, every meal should be worthy of a gastronomic restaurant. Others in the household think that is the route to being both overweight and penniless (giant steaks and new wardrobes in bigger sizes are pricey).
So what do the bons vivants around us do about dinner?
The consistent answer is: soup.
The word for supper in French is souper, and it’s where you eat soup.
Dîner—dinner—tends to be used for the midday meal, which in our region is the main meal of the day. There’s a proverb: Manger comme un roi le matin, comme un prince le midi, comme un pauvre le soir (eat like a king in the morning, like a prince at noon and like a pauper in the evening). Most businesses close between noon and 2 p.m. (or even 4 p.m.) so people can go home to eat and take a nap.
Another clue that soup is ubiquitous: the supermarket produce aisle offers a ready-made soup kit, with a leek, a couple of carrots, a wedge of cabbage, a turnip, or some similar combination wrapped up in cellophane. Just add water and heat.
I just read in the New York Times that soup is the new juicing. They’re catching up. My French girlfriends steer clear of restaurants in winter, in favor of homemade soup. It’s a combination of New Year’s resolution, a yin-and-yang reaction to the excesses of the holiday season, as well as an acknowledgement that we have to adjust for the decrease in physical activity in winter.
You can imagine this doesn’t go over well with our resident carnivore. But we have soup every Tuesday (and only on Tuesday) as a compromise.
Here’s a very easy recipe for a rich, thick soup, called a velouté, that a friend introduced me to.
Don’t tell on me, but I not only used up the green part of some leeks, which most people toss, but I also minced up the stalk off some broccoli that’s on the menu for later in the week. We do not throw away food. Anyway, it’s all green, and it just ups the vitamin content.
Don’t stress the quantities too much–if you have a bit more or less of something, it will still taste good! This isn’t baking, where measurements matter.
2 lbs. zucchini, cut into cubes (I don’t peel)
8 oz. cream cheese or Laughing Cow cheese (the St. Môret shown is like cream cheese)
2 cubes of bouillon — vegetable or chicken
3 garlic cloves or a shallot (whatever you have), minced
olive oil or butter
4-5 cups of water
Over low heat, gently brown the garlic or shallot in a little oil or butter. Add the zucchini. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring often, so the veggies brown but don’t burn. This really raises the flavor compared with just boiling them. Add water and bouillon and raise the heat to bring to a gentle boil. Let it cook for about 20 more minutes—so the vegetables are really soft. I season with a little pepper but not with salt because the bouillon is salty enough. Taste first!
If you have an immersion blender, add the cheese, mix and serve. If you’re using a blender, let the soup cool before transferring to the blender to purée it. Stir in the cheese when you reheat the soup before serving.
It’s delicious with a fresh baguette. Or my new favorite: whole-wheat oatmeal bread from Smitten Kitchen. Served hot, of course!