I started following Clotilde Dusoulier’s chocolateandzucchini.com food blog back in the mid-2000s after my honeymoon in France. Her recipes were fresh, modern and American-friendly (she’s French but lived in San Francisco for two years) with enough French flair to satisfy my inner Francophile. Seven years later I’m still married, I still love French cooking, and I’m even more of a fan of Dusoulier after seeing her new book, The French Market Cookbook — 90 vegetarian recipes driven by seasonal produce. Dishes like Radish-Top Pasta and Curried Leek Tart Tatin have me daydreaming about those days I spent strolling though Parisian street markets. This soup recipe from the book will help tide me over until I can go back. —Amy Leibrock
If you like to buy good, crusty artisan bread, I’m sure you are as reluctant as I am to toss the butt ends that start to get stale after a few days. This recipe is for you.
Panade is among the most satisfying and comforting dishes of the French peasant repertoire: A simple vegetable soup thickened with bread, it is both economical — simply save those stale slices in the freezer until you have enough of a supply — and absolutely delicious.
You can make panade with practically any vegetable you use in soup, but this version is my favorite to make the most of the summertime bounty of tomatoes. I garnish it with tarragon, a thin-leaved herb with a subtle aniseed-like flavor that the French hold dear. When I was growing up, my mother always added tarragon to her tomato salads, so nothing says summer to me like this pairing.
The soup freezes well, too, and when the first chilly days of fall appear, you can treat yourself to a lovely summery encore.
Tomato and Tarragon Bread Soup
Panade de tomate à l’ estragon
This recipe can only sing as beautifully as the tomatoes you put in it, so use the tastiest field tomatoes possible, in season and ripe, preferably from the farmers’ market. Bonus points if you can mix and match different varieties. I garnish this soup with fresh tarragon, an herb with long, thin leaves whose subtly aniseed-like notes lift the overall flavor by a few notches.
Serves 4 to 6
Olive oil for cooking
1 small yellow onion (4¼ ounces / 120 g), finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, 1 minced, 1 halved
10 fresh sage leaves, midveins removed, finely sliced
Fine sea salt
2½ pounds / 1 kg tomatoes, roughly chopped
10 ounces / 280 g stale country or sourdough bread
4 cups / 1 liter Homemade Vegetable Stock
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup / 10 g fresh tarragon or basil leaves
1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a soup pot over medium heat and add the onion, minced garlic, sage, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often to avoid coloring, until the onion has softened, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, with their juices and seeds, and 1 teaspoon salt.
2. Cut one-third of the bread into slices about 1/3 inch thick and set aside; you’ll be making croutons with those in a moment. Cut the remaining bread into rough cubes and add them to the pot.
3. Pour in the stock, bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until the tomatoes and bread are very soft, about 30 minutes.
4. Add a few dashes of hot sauce, then taste and adjust the seasoning.
5. Toast the reserved slices of bread and, while still warm, rub both sides with the cut side of the halved garlic clove. Dice into croutons.
6. Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle with black pepper, top with croutons, and sprinkle with tarragon. Serve immediately.
Our friends at therecipeclub.net have another recipe from The French Market Cookbook: Eggplant and Fresh Herb Tabbouleh. Bon appétit!