As I continue with Brother Victor-Antoine’s soup and salad cookbooks, I’m beginning to suspect that the various recipes aren’t necessarily organized by seasonality of ingredients. This month’s recipes feature ingredients normally at their best in the fall (squash, potatoes, apples). And as cold rain poured down throughout the month, it was a challenge to serve myself a salad made with icy cucumbers and apples. More appropriate for a hot summer day, I’d have thought.
Just as an aside, in his salad cookbook Brother Victor-Antoine took some time to explain why so many of his recipes are named for saints. It isn’t that the saints created these salads. Instead, as he explains, “there are many ways of honoring the saints and keeping their memories alive. One of my ways was to name recipes after them, so that others might think of and remember their legacies.”
I skipped a beer and mushroom soup (named for Saint Lioba, an Englishwoman who helped evangelize Germany), lentil stew and onion soup, and a minestrone, to try d’Avila’s Everyday Potato Soup — just onions, potatoes and milk. I added chili powder, and garnished with lots of parsley. A simple soup, perfect as an afternoon snack.
Then, to use some roasted butternut squash I’d frozen from the fall, I tried his Butternut Squash Soup Portuguese Style. Cooked with onions, garlic, potatoes, and carrots, this puréed soup was the highlight of the March recipes. I had it with the second salad below, where you’ll find the image.
I could have made salads with caviar, papaya, or salmon. I could have made Etruscan, Dutch-Style, Sicilian, or Farnese Salad. But I skipped them all and chose the following:
The Salad Picarde made an excellent light meal, even better the next day. Roasted cauliflower, chopped cucumber, minced red onion, shredded red cabbage. Garnished with toasted walnuts, blue cheese, chopped hard-boiled egg. I had it with some leftover butternut squash risotto.
Despite the recipe’s French origins, I used one of my favorite English blue cheeses, a Shropshire blue. Its gold color contrasted well with the red cabbage. If you like blue cheese, keep an eye out for that Shropshire blue. I used to be able to find it in fancy food shops just before Christmas, but not for quite a few years. And then, out of the blue, this month, there it was at my local store. I bought way too much of it, but I don’t care. It could be another 4-5 years before I see it again.
Which makes me wonder — what’s happened to Cotswold cheese (a lovely double Gloucester with chives) that I used to see everywhere? And can someone tell me why plain Wensleydale is never available in the US? Are the manufacturers just being churlish and keeping all the good stuff local, sending out only the batches flavored with apricot or blueberry or cranberry?
Finally, that recipe more suitable for a hot summer day, Madagascar Date-Nut Salad. I tried it as much for the dressing (citrus and yogurt) as for the crunch (apples, slivered almonds, cucumber, red peppers, and celery). There it is in the image on the left, just below the Portuguese butternut squash soup, which I garnished with an excessive amount of chopped parsley and a few drops of chili oil.
The two together make a good soup-and-salad combo, with plenty of crunch in the salad and that extra bit of heat in the soup, to help me feel better about the rain that raineth everyday.
And now I’m worried about what’s going to happen in April, the month that is supposed to be full of showers. Well, as Charles Dudley Warner once quipped, everybody talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it.
Keep smiling, nonetheless!