When I was in Seattle this summer and daughter Meg was in the urping first months of pregnancy, she said, “Mom, my refrigerator is crushed full of greens and veggies from the farm that are going bad. I can’t deal with them right now. Help!” Boy, do I wish I had had Anna’s book then. Yes I made some borshch, but all those semi-tired collards and mustards and spinaches and chards? Where was Love Soup when I needed it?
It was in the hands of publicist Rebecca Carlisle at Norton, who’d asked me if I’d review it…and it just arrived this week. I was so glad to get it, just as the weather has begun to cool and La Rentrée has commenced in France.
Anna Thomas, famous for her 1973 Vegetarian Epicure, written when she was a struggling grad student, has gotten marvelously comfortable in the kitchen since then. Her take on soup and her mostly self-created recipes in this book are exciting, but not precious–you can hear on every page that she is writing her book for real people and customizing recipes to please, not to be showy. That’s important when you’re making up soup recipes, I think, because unless soup is traditional or designed for a particular experience, it really doesn’t call for recipes–just for a sense of how to put available ingredients together in an inspired sort of way. And Ana has lessons to teach.
Love Soup is a big book; is written above all for vegetarians; and is romantic, matching produce with their just seasons in a way that connects each soup to the earth and to people. What’s new? A number of things.
- It is as specific and various on vegetable broth recipes as most soup books are on meat and fish stocks–and this is huge, as clear/dark/rich/light foundations to soups are at least and probably more important to vegetarians who want a soup that sings.
- It is crazy for “green soups”–just what I needed in Seattle.
- It is crazy for using roast vegetables in soups. I love this! Tapping into the density and sweetness of roasted vegetables, so different from raw-vegetable soup, creates all new flavors and textures in the final soup bowl.
- It is awash with inside information on ingredients and preparation, gained from both study and experience.
- American and European measures are detailed in every recipe.
Where to start? In honor of France and in honor of friend Stu, who is currently obsessed with all things lentil soup, I chose her “French lentil stew with roasted carrots and mint for 6″ to try out this weekend. Wow.
1 and 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 and 1/2 pounds onions, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
4 Tbsp olive oil
sea salt and pepper
1 generous cup French green lentils (Lentilles vertes du Puy)
4 cups cold water
4 cups vegetable broth
1 generous Tbsp. chopped fresh mint
1-2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1-2 Tbsp. red chile salsa (I used the classic Basque espelette pepper sauce, just cause I’m lucky enough to be able to get it)
Garnishes: feta cheese (I substituted Poitou goat cheese) and fruity olive oil drizzles
Begin by tossing the carrots and onions separately in a bowl with a Tablespoon of olive oil, salt, and pepper to coat them, then roasting them in separate pans in a 375 degree oven for an hour, stirring occasionally. You need to keep them separate as the onions may cook more quickly and need to be stirred more often. Take them out when soft and browned, let the cool a little, then chop them coarsely.
Meanwhile, wash the lentils and put them in a pot with 4 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes. Add the chopped vegetables, the vegetable broth, 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice, salt to taste, and your pepper sauce of choice. I was lucky to have gotten a jar of Basque espelette peppers while visiting Bayonne this summer in the corner of southwest France–as a rule, the French do not like spicy foods and rarely use pepper sauce. But Espelette is extraordinary–buy it if you can find it.
Simmer the soup for about 10 minutes to marry the flavors. Taste to see if it needs more salt, pepper, or lemon juice. Add more broth if you want it soupier. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish each with cheese and a drizzle of fruity olive oil.
Many thanks, Anna, for a great contribution to the world of soup cookbooks.
Anna thomas, LOVE SOUP: 160 All-New Vegetarian Recipes from the Author of The Vegetarian Epicure [W. W. Norton & Company; September 21, 2009; $22.95 paperback original].