Tuesday Dinner: Soupe au Pistou

Soupe au Pistou (French vegetable soup with white beans & pesto) • Lettuce & Arugula with Watermelon and Lemon-Honey Dressing • Levain Rolls • Soft Amaretti

I don’t have any summer trips planned to the south of France, and I’m pretty sure you don’t either, but let’s all pretend for a minute, shall we? When you think “Provence,” maybe you think of Peter Mayle’s three-hour-long lunches at a village restaurant in the Luberon, or celebrity-spotting during the Cannes Film Festival (which would have been this month), or the wild, empty mountains of the Vaucluse. Whichever particular Provençal backdrop you choose, go ahead and imagine yourself eating this soup there. Soupe au pistou is a vegetable soup with white beans; the name comes from the cheeseless basil pesto that you dollop on top of the soup. It starts with leeks and fennel slowly cooked in olive oil, and also has celery, carrots, green beans, and summer squash. The pistou adds a fragrant punch of basil and fresh garlic—so delicious! If I had my way, I’d be eating soupe au pistou while drinking a glass of rosé, but it’s been three weeks since I’ve had the energy to brave the line to get into Trader Joe’s, and all the wine I’ve got left is white. Not my perfect imaginary vision, but a glass of wine with dinner is never a bad thing.

To go alongside, the salad today has arugula and watermelon, a very summery combination. The dressing has whole Meyer lemons from my mom’s tree—I love the lemon flavor that comes from using whole lemons. The skin on Meyer lemons is so thin that it’s not bitter when you use the whole fruit. There’s a touch of honey, too; a little sweet to balance out the tart. 

Have you noticed a difference in the bread lately? There’s still quite a bit of shopping weirdness in the baking aisle of all the grocery stores, but there are some silver linings, too. At United in San Anselmo, anyone who wants Gold Medal or King Arthur flour is out of luck, but for some crazy reason—I’m not questioning, just enjoying—they have 25-pound sacks of organic Central Milling flour and bread flour. (Also 25-pound sacks of Pamela’s gluten-free artisan flour, for those of you that might want that.) I’m really liking bread made with bread flour. Buying flour in 25- and 50-pound bags has made me organize a flour storage system. Now that I’ve got containers and a storage area sorted out, I’ll continue to buy large amounts of flour, and we’ll be having higher-protein bread flour in our bread even after this pandemic goes away. (And it will go away.)

I was catching up on my favorite food podcast this weekend (Spilled Milk). One of the latest episodes was about almond extract, and I suddenly needed an almond cookie right away. The almond cookies we have for dessert today are related to amaretti, but instead of being crispy-crunchy all the way through, these are soft. The difference comes from baking temperature and time: instead of a slow bake in a 300º oven (for crispness), these bake for a shorter time in a hotter oven, which gives them a thin crispy crust while leaving a delightfully soft and chewy center.

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