Dear SOS: I had the most delicious, garlic-rich soupe au pistou with amaranth and Parmesan bread crumbs at Lucques in Los Angeles. It had a crunchy topping with a sweet garlic taste. I would be thrilled if you could get this recipe.
Dear M. Gregory: We're just as thrilled as you are about this soup. It's terrific -- rich and earthy yet brimming with the freshness of fall vegetables. A spoonful of delicious pistou (the French version of Italy's pesto) and a few Parmesan croutons are added just before serving.
Lucques' soupe au pistou with Parmesan croutons
Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Servings: 6 to 8
Note: From Suzanne Goin. Find amaranth leaves at farmers markets. San Marzano tomatoes are available in Italian markets and better supermarkets.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 sprig rosemary
1/2 dried chile de arbol
1 cup roughly chopped onion
1/4 bulb fennel, roughly chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup roughly chopped carrot
1/3 cup roughly chopped celery
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
5 sprigs thyme
3 sprigs Italian parsley
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 cup chopped canned San Marzano tomatoes (about 4)
2 quarts water
1. Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the olive oil, rosemary and chile. When the rosemary and chile start to sizzle, add the onion, fennel, carrot, celery, garlic, thyme, parsley, bay leaf, fennel seeds, peppercorns and salt.
2. Saute the vegetables for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring often, until they begin to caramelize. Add the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes.
3. Add the water, bring to a boil and simmer until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Cool slightly, then puree in a blender, in batches if necessary. Strain. Cool completely.
1/2 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup thinly sliced basil
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped parsley
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1. Pound the garlic in a mortar with the salt until it forms a paste. Place in a small mixing bowl. In batches, pound the basil to a paste, transferring the paste to the bowl as you go.
2. Stir the olive oil into the basil. When the basil has all been incorporated, pound the parsley in the same manner and add to the bowl. Gently pound the pine nuts and add to the bowl. Stir; taste for seasoning.
Soup and assembly
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3/4 cup diced red onion
3/4 cup diced fennel bulb
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups diced summer squash
1 1/2 cups 1-inch bias cut mixture of green and yellow beans
1/2 cup cooked fresh shelled beans (flageolet or cranberry)
1/4 pound country white bread
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 cup torn amaranth leaves, (or 1 cup baby spinach leaves)
1 recipe pistou
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat a medium saute pan over high heat for 1 minute. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and the onion. Cook until the onion is translucent. Add the fennel, thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Cook until the fennel is tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove to a plate to cool.
2. Return the pan to the stove, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and quickly saute the squash over high heat for 1 or 2 minutes. Remove to a plate to cool. Blanch the cut beans for 2 minutes in boiling salted water. Cool in an ice bath. When the vegetables have cooled, add them to the soup. Add the shell beans; taste for seasoning.
3. Cut the crust from the bread and tear the remaining bread into rustic 1-inch pieces. Using your hands, toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and the Parmesan, squeezing the bread gently to help it absorb the oil. Arrange the croutons in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast, stirring often, 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown and crisp outside but a little tender inside.
4. Heat the soup to boiling. Stir in the amaranth. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish each with a spoonful of pistou and a handful of croutons.
Each of 8 servings: 542 calories; 8 grams protein; 30 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams fiber; 45 grams fat; 6 grams saturated fat; 3 mg. cholesterol; 1,042 mg. sodium.