When it’s spring and you’re ready for le soleil, a cool rainy day (or week) can suck the sunlight right out of your soul. We had a mild winter here in Burgundy, but a spring that’s cool and damp enough to soak into your bones and your spirit. The grass looks perky, but our scowling faces do not.
Still, the marché is full of fat, ripe spring veggies begging to be plucked. So when the spring rains come, it’s time to make soup.
My neighbor and great friend Marion made a tomato red pepper soup the other day that was delicious, so I decided to try my own version. I consulted Martha Rose Shulman's recipe as well as Marion's. Now I have a great new soup recipe, which I can serve to company as my summer starter, since it’s delicious hot or cold. It was tasty enough to penetrate our sun-starved spirits.
On this rainy day I served it hot, with cracker crostinis. I spread crackers with a cream cheese/parmesan/garlic/chive dip, and topped that with sliced radishes. A lovely crunch with that supple soup. Come summer I hope to be serving it cold, on a dazzling cloudless day. Here’s wishing you a spring full of sunny skies, and if not, at least a bubbling pot of soup on the stove.
I happened to have some tasty spring cherry tomatoes from down south on hand, and fresh tomatoes really amp up the flavor in this soup. But I took the short road and used roasted peppers from a jar, they’re fine for this recipe. For the broth, use chicken or veggie broth or water. I used two parts water to one part wine, plus a teaspoon of Fond de Volaille, which is a sort of powdered bouillon commonly used in France.
This is a no-measuring, make-it-in-a moment recipe.
Chop an onion and just a bit of celery if you have it, and finely chop a couple of small carrots. You can add some heat here by adding a small chopped hot pepper, or if not you can add some heat later.
Sauté the veggies in olive oil for maybe 5 minutes, then add 3 chopped garlic cloves, and cook another minute. Throw in about 1 1/2 cups of coarsely chopped fresh tomatoes and sauté another minute. Add a 12 oz. (340 gr) jar of roasted red peppers, drained, and stir it all around a bit. Then add broth (see above) to cover, 2 cups or more.
At this point I added salt and pepper and a little piment d’espelette for heat. You could add Tabasco, Sriracha, or cayenne pepper to taste. Simmer this for about 15 minutes, taste to correct seasonings. Then throw in a few fresh basil leaves if you have them; cool slightly and then purée it with an immersion blender, or a regular one (if you’re worried you’ve got too much liquid and it will be thin, drain some off and save it; then add back in as needed after you blend it). Add a half a cup or more of crème fraîche or sour cream, and stir well. Re-heat just to a simmer, or chill it and serve it cold, with a swirl of cream and a bit of chopped fresh herbs. Some small croutons would not be a bad addition.
In the COMMENTS: Ellen, Julie, Ali and Alix have church bell stories of their own to tell. Suzanne, I've been sneaking out between showers to prune and plant, and I hope it will pay off when the weather "settles", as you say. Stephany, welcome to the blog. And to Natalia: oops, that chocolate disappeared like magic, merci!
One of our commenters this week, Lin Wolff, is an American with a charming English bookstore in the south of France, which is well worth a stop if you are in the neighborhood, the kind of old-fashioned book store you really want to linger in. It's in Valbonne, which is one of my favorite towns in the South.