Monday, August 11, 2008

France: Menton & soup Menton recipe redux

Soup Menton

Serves: 6

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 35 to 40 minutes

This is an excellent summer soup that allows you to take full advantage of your garden (or the farmer’s market). A few shelled peas or several tiny cauliflower flowerettes may be added to it.


8 tablespoons olive oil

2 onions, finely minced

1-pound fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, & chopped*

2 cups new potatoes, cut into small cubes

2 cups young green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces

Salt & freshly ground pepper

3 small zucchini, cut into cubes

½ cup broken-up spaghetti*

1-cup fresh basil leaves*

4 garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese (if you don’t have fresh, leave it out, you’ll live)


3 egg yolks


1. In a large casserole heat 3 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onions and cook without browning for 3 to 5 minutes.

2. Add the tomatoes, potatoes, & beans. Season with salt & pepper & cover with 6 to 8 cups of water. Bring the mixture to a boil & reduce the heat. Simmer the soup partially covered for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are almost tender.

3. Add the zucchini & spaghetti and continue simmering the soup for 12 to 15 minutes more or until all the vegetables are tender. Do not overcook. The soup must retain its freshness.

4. While the soup is simmering, combine the basil, garlic, & parmesan in a blender. Add enough of the remaining olive oil to make a smooth paste. You will need about 5 tablespoons.

5. Just before serving (off the heat), whisk the basil paste into the soup. Correct the seasoning & serve.


For a more refined soup, mix the egg yolks with a little more of the broth, & whisk the egg-yolk mixture into the soup. In this case, the soup must not come to a boil again or the yolks will curdle.

A firm tomato, peeled, seeded & cut into tiny cubes, is a lovely addition to the soup just before serving

When including peas in the soup, they should be added no more than 5 to 8 minutes before the soup is done. Cauliflower flowerettes can be added together with the zucchini.

©Recipe from Perla Meyers, The Seasonal Kitchen, A Return to Fresh Foods, Vintage Books edition, 1975.

*Remarks from GG’s editor.

This is an old (early 1970s) cookbook & some things might drive the au courant version of a food snob mad, such as breaking up spaghetti & tossing it into a soup. My dears, stop the hissy fits, it’s so unbecoming. Intentional pasta breakage occurs in Italian & French kitchens every day of the week. It is a good way to use those odd bits at the bottom of boxes & such. Just don’t do it when you’re serving pasta as the star—then, there is hissing at GG Central.

*About the tomatoes…well, we don’t have a reliable fresh supply & so really, really good tinned ones, drained & crunched are OK, if you don’t tell Perla Meyers. But really, do try to get fresh ones, especially this late in August on into October (really). Or whimper to friends & colleagues who have gardens. When it comes to fresh produce, have no shame. That’s according to GG. Blame her.

*About the eggs: it makes a divine difference & we highly recommend it to non-vegans & French-fancy-averse cooks who are chicken (ha!) about it (or lazy, might we say?). Still, don’t do it if you aren’t going to use the egg whites for omelettes or soufflés or meringues (freeze them). Egg whites make a fabulous facial masque, by the by. Haven’t done it in years, but we're fairly sure egg whites haven’t changed. Anyway, the yolks aren’t necessary but do try it at least once to show how open-minded & sophisticated & non-alarmist you are about eggs-as-lethal weapons.

*Other unnecessary remarks. We finally faced up to our blender-less kitchen (as in: it's a problem) Friday night. A “baby” Cuisinart is not the best for this paste or any other. Our blender conked out ages ago & we’ve been getting by with pesto (yes of course, we use Marcella Hazan's, why do you ask?) that’s all flaky…with basil bits that look like pests, not pesto…ugh. The basil goes brown, of course, the minute one chops it (which is why we tear it onto salads & so on). So by all means, if you find yourself without one (& have the means), buy a new blender. Otherwise, muddle through & eat it yourself (it is good), but don’t serve it to guests; save your pennies for a new or used one, or haul out the old mortar & pestle & pound out your frustrations. Just don’t scare the cat for heaven’s sake.

Rosemary, sage, catmint, & basil (green & purple) bouquets still grace the kitchen, living room, & bath from the ever-generous Maria Caterina di Perugia's garden. Some rosemary & sage are already dried & stored for the coming autumn. Heavenly feeling. More photographs (uh, scans), recipes, etc. later. GG's editor is preparing dejeuner, trying to ignore the terrible world news.