Soup and Salad, November

I know people who say, “When I make a recipe for the first time, I follow it exactly.”

Very admirable, I think to myself. I should try that. If a new recipe appeals to me, I should trust the chef and do exactly as they say.

I generally don’t garnish my dishes with flowers.

I bring this up because I found myself making notes for changes to one of this month’s recipes before trying the unadulterated original. Wrote the changes into my cookbook, in ink. It started with substituting canned beans for dried beans (soaking beans overnight calls for plan-ahead preparedness, and I’m rarely that much in advance of my meals). Using canned instead of dried beans meant a quicker cooking time — already my usual approach with Brother Victor-Antoine’s soup recipes, because his simmering times often result in undifferentiated mush. Since I’m cooking for one, I made only 1/4th of the recipe, which meant I had to reduce amounts for all the ingredients. Yet it’s ridiculous to consider adding a quarter stalk of celery to a soup — just go ahead and bung in the whole thing, well-chopped. Not sauté the onions, leek, and garlic? Nope. Bouillon cube? I would prefer not to. And so on.

I can see I won’t have to say much about my first recipe. You’ve probably already figured out most of it.


I appreciate the vegetarian focus of Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette’s recipes. While his soups occasionally call for bouillon or broth, this can easily be vegetable instead of chicken or beef. Even plain water will often do, if fresh herbs are available. Eggs make frequent appearances, but I don’t mind this, since my eggs come straight from the farmer, whose chickens are cage-free and allowed to graze outside. For November, I made his White Bean Soup and Zuppa alla Pavese (Bread Soup from Pavia, a city in northern Italy). Each looked like easy soups, good and hot for a chilly autumn evening.

White Bean Soup offers no surprises. Sauté vegetables, add broth and beans, simmer until done, add chopped greens for final 3 minutes. Serve hot, garnished with grated parmesan. It wouldn’t hurt to add some chili flakes early on, or perhaps some smoked paprika at the end, but all-in-all a tasty soup. Must amend my notes to use 2 cans of beans rather than just one. (Chef friends: what’s the dried beans to canned beans substitution ratio?)

If I make the Zuppa alla Pavese again, it’ll be for breakfast. Imagine bread fried in herbed butter topped with a poached egg and then garnished with a ladle of piping hot broth. OK, perhaps that last step doesn’t sound appetizing, but in fact this recipe surprised me. I’d seen something like this before, but this is my first time making it myself, and it’s a good cold-weather alternative to oatmeal. (Expert tip — make additional fried bread to serve on the side.)

I know the Zuppa alla Pavese looks a bit like the White Bean Soup (and many of the other soups I’ve featured this year) but that’s the thing about Brother Victor-Antoine. Because he uses lots of greens (spinach, kale, parsley, etc.) and thin broths, I quickly noticed a sameness about the recipes. Not boring, because I can eat the same soup everyday for a week and not mind it (it’s great to not have to pull out the big soup pot every single day–just heat up what I need in a small sauce pan and be on my way). What’s more, if traditional ingredients like beef, pork and chicken are off the menu, all that’s left is lots and lots of vegetables. Bonus: these all cook up really fast.


Cider press?

More room for variety in salads, you’d think, since lettuces come into their own here. But, as with soups, there are only just so many vegetables. (Especially if certain popular veggies are not actual options. Take, for example, beets. Please, take them all! And remove the asparagus while you’re at it.)

I found a couple of winners from November’s selections, but both are also riffs on earlier recipes — again, the echo effect of certain elements. I’d be willing to serve either Mediterranean Lentil and Rice Salad or St. Andrew “The First Called” Salad to guests, but many of the ingredients you’ve seen before, so don’t worry if some of this sounds like going over familiar territory. It is.

What’s new about St. Andrew “The First Called” Salad is the dressing. I’ll start by listing the ingredients: fresh spinach, canned tuna, mushroom, avocado, hard-boiled egg. The dressing is where this salad steps out of the ordinary column: a normal lemon-juice vinaigrette, but when made with chili sauce, mustard, horseradish, and paprika to spike the flavors, it becomes “French Deluxe Dressing”. (Another expert tip — if your tuna comes canned in oil, use that oil in the dressing.)

I’m certain there are, among my readers, those who would send all canned tuna to hell’s kitchen (not the NYC neighborhood, which offers some really good restaurants, but the real one where the maitre d’ makes you wait a week for the table by the toilets, the waiters sniff non-stop, the kitchen crew is only Poppie from Seinfeld — look it up — and the owner … well, it matters not who the owner is. It’s already as bad as can be.) If you’re one of those, omit the tuna. It’s the dressing that you ought to try, and it goes well with a vegan version of this salad, or on avocados alone. I’d be willing to try it on a carrot-cabbage slaw.

Mediterranean Lentil and Rice Salad, on the other hand, should have no doubters out there. I took a chance and didn’t halve or quarter the recipe — made the whole thing, so that I could see how it lasted over a few days. So far, so good, and I do like the lentil-rice combo.

Use the black-ish French lentils for this dish, although green ones will do. The recipe calls for long-grain white rice, but I used short-grain brown, whose chewy texture I prefer. But any plain rice should work.

The other ingredients include grape tomatoes, diced cucumber, minced red onion, and chopped black olives. For dressing, another vinaigrette, this one with both red wine vinegar and lemon juice, mustard, and a dash each of sugar and thyme.

I served mine on a bed of lettuce, for which you could substitute kale, arugula, spinach, or any other uncooked greens. I still have some spinach from the other salad, so I’m going to try that next.

That’s all for November. Happy reading and eating to all! And, as before, if you see something you’d like to make, let me know and I’ll send along a screen shot of the recipe.

Medieval raconteur. The audience member raising his hand is trying to point out that the same thing happened to him, but the speaker isn’t having it.

About Lizzie Ross

in no particular order: author, teacher, cyclist, world traveler, single parent. oh, and i read. a lot.
This entry was posted in Am reading, NOT a food blog, Reading the Year, Soup and salad and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Soup and Salad, November

  1. J says:

    “Undifferentiated mush,” LOL!

    I’d be interested in looking at the French deluxe dressing recipe. Always good to have great salad dressings.

    I went to an expert to help you with bean substitutions. Steve Sando of Rancho Gorda is a master beaner and worth following on Twitter.

    Liked by 1 person

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