Dana Slatkin

Farmers Market Vegetable Soup

Vegetable Soup

Vegetable Soup

Ever since I learned how to make soup while cooking in France, this straightforward, fail-proof soupe au pistou has been a mainstay on my Friday night menus. And just about every time I serve it, someone asks me for the recipe. But when it comes to soup, I rarely follow a recipe. Instead, I go by a few guidelines, courtesy of two of my mentors, Michelin 3-star chefs Georges Blanc and Michel Guèrard.

Building up layers of flavor is essential for a heady and complex brew. This starts at the bottom of your pot with a mire poix of onions, carrots and celery (the ratio is usually 2 parts onion to 1 part carrots and celery). For a rustic outdoor lunch, I will chop the vegetables roughly; for an elegant dinner party, only small dice will do. Sauté them in olive oil, butter, or a combination of both (my preference for optimal flavor and browning) until they are quite soft. Then add the next building block, an assortment of diced vegetables, whatever is colorful and in season.

And now comes my favorite trick…you must add cold liquid (I use half water and half broth) to the hot solids to draw out the flavors into the soup. Once it all comes to a full boil, drop in a sachet of aromatics (for this, I use a coffee filter tied with string to hold bay leaves, peppercorns, dried thyme or Herbes de Provence, chopped lemon grass…you decide). Now lower the heat and simmer your soup until the vegetables are soft (about an hour). Season gently as you go, keeping in mind that as the liquid evaporates, the salt intensifies. I find that adding a couple broth cubes will enhance the savory notes of sweeter vegetables. Serve the soup with a dollop of pesto (fresh basil in the summer, arugula or broccoli rabe in the winter), along with extra Parmesan cheese on the side.

And voila! By adhering to some basic principles of soup-making, you will end up with an amalgam of flavors from nature’s bounty that will deeply satisfy and restore. Use this recipe only as a template from which to create…after all, it’s your brew.

For a luscious ending to a comforting fall meal, try baking a French Apple or Blueberry Pie.

Photo credit: MarthaStewart.com

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