Archive | July, 2011

Soupe au Pistou

16 Jul

I had intended to post two more recipes quite soon after my last post but things got in the way and I am behind again. Half the month is gone and before I know it, we’ll be going away again so I am forcing myself to write this and the next post quickly.

On the trail of southern French food after our recent visit, I decided one day to make a soupe au pistou. Usually, at the end of the week, I look into my refrigerator to see what’s left and throw everything that looks like its life is about to end, into a pot. This time, it looked like I had about everything to make an Italian minestrone. This soup appears quite often on the table, through lack of inspiration on my part to search for something else, and it’s also something I can do with my eyes closed. While flipping through my French cookbook La Cuisine Francaise for another recipe, I noticed the soupe au pistou. I’ve looked at this  a couple of times and written it off as ‘minestrone with pesto sauce on top’, which it actually is but this time around, I remembered the pot of fresh basil sitting on the kitchen counter, waiting to be plucked. I didn’t have the celery, lima beans and potatoes the recipe called for but lima beans and potatoes are carbs anyway and just like a minestrone, one can substitute veggies without substantially altering the outcome. To my surprise, it came out really nice and actually tasted different from minestrone. The pesto made the difference. So here is my version and of course, you can be flexible with the veggies. It’s the pesto that’s important.

Please excuse the poor photos. They don’t do justice to the soup!

Soupe au Pistou

(serves 4)

Ingredients

For the soup

1 small leek, sliced into rings

1 carrot, cut into little cubes

1 small zucchini, cut into little cubes

60gr green beans cut into 2 cm lengths

60 gr green peas

100gr broccoli or cauliflower, cut into small florets and cut the stems into cubes like the carrots and zucchini

a handful of spinach leaves

1 large tomato, cut into cubes

4 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth or water

1 Tbsp herbes de Provence (or just mix rosemary, thyme, oregano, marjoram)

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic. finely chopped

1 Tbsp olive oil

salt, pepper

For the pistou

1 clove garlic, peeled

1/2 bunch fresh basil

2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

First make the pistou – the pesto. Beforehand, pluck the basil leaves, rinse them and pat dry with a paper kitchen towel. Put them together with all the other ingredients in a mixer and purée till it becomes a paste. If the paste is too dry, add a bit more olive oil and if it is the liquid, add more basil leaves and parmesan. The pesto shouldn’t be runny.

Now on to the soup.

Heat the olive oil in a pot. Add the onions and brown. Next add the carrots and garlic and cook 3-4 minutes. Then add all the other veggies, herbes de provence and broth. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, cover and simmer gently for about 10 min or till the veggies are cooked. Adjust the seasoning, dish out into bowls, top with a dollop of pistou, garnish with a basil leaf and serve.

Nutritional Facts – I haven’t calculated this because quantities and type of veggies can be varied.

Print this recipe – Soupe au Pistou

A Taste of Provence – Tapenade

4 Jul

Fresh back from our holiday in France, I am trying to prolong the holiday mood by cooking southern French food. We had two weeks of pure sunshine in Antibes and we’ve been back a week now – what have we had? Two days of light rain, two days of sun, one bad storm followed by occasional showers and cloudy skies. So we really need something to bridge the time till the next vacation.

Having visited the Provencal market several times in Antibes, I noticed that there were many stalls selling appetizers like olives, sundried tomatoes, herbs and tapenades. The market wasn’t very big but there were at least 5 stalls selling the same sort of thing. The place was teeming with tourists. I quite doubt that very many locals do their shopping there, preferring to go to the big Hypermarché’s where you can spend hours and get everything under the sun.

There are people who like olives and those who don’t and I belong to those who don’t. I’ve seen recipes for tapenades and have often steered clear of them until one day, I was served an amuse-bouche in a restaurant which consisted of a tiny slice of baguette with the infamous tapenade. It was actually quite delicious. So when I saw these stalls selling tapenade, I stopped to examine what was on offer. I noticed that there were three varieties  – the dark olive one, one made with green olives and a red one made with the addition of sun-dried tomatoes. I made a note to go back on the last day of our holiday to get some but as luck would have it, we were caught up with other things and I sadly never made it back to the market before it closed that day. So that left me no choice but to google for a recipe and make my own. In doing so, I also learnt a bit about what a tapenade is.

The name tapenade stems from the provençal word for capers, tapenas (Occitan pronunciation: [taˈpenɔ]). It is eaten as a dip with raw cut vegetables called crudités or as a spread on toasted slices of baguette or just on bread. Sometimes it is stuffed in or spread over meat and fish before cooking. The base of the tapenade is olives, usually black ones. It is puréed to a paste with olive oil. To vary the flavours other ingredients may be added such as capers, sundried tomatoes, garlic, anchovies, herbs or lemon juice. Some people like to purée it to a smooth paste while others like a slightly coarser texture.

I made this version below today and it was delicious. Serving it on a slice of toasted baguette would be great but since we are low carbing here, I’ve spread them on little slices of a bread roll I made out of my Low Carb Sunflower Seed Loaf dough, recipe found here.

This version has the addition of capers. Capers can sometimes be quite salty so I decided to start with one tablespoon first before proceeding further. I found that one tablespoon was sufficient and so omitted adding the second tablespoon called for below.

Black Olive and Sundried Tomato Tapenade


1/2 cup pitted black olives

1/2 cup sundried tomatoes (packed in oil)

a large bunch fresh basil leaves

2 Tbsp capers

4 Tbsp good olive oil, plus more if necessary

Chop the olives and sundried tomatoes a little and place them in a blender. Add the rest of the ingredients. Purée until smooth. If the paste is too thick, add a bit more olive oil and purée till coarse or fine. Spread on bread, garnish with a basil leaf and enjoy! Don’t forget to enjoy this with a small glass of red wine!

Print this recipe – Black Olive and Sundried Tomato Tapenade

Summary: June 2011

1 Jul

Phew – June has really raced by. Very uneventful for me in terms of experimenting on new recipes. I was away 18 out of the 30 days in June, happily on vacation and the rest of the time, I didn’t feel like doing much because of my bad back and other problems. First we went for a family party in Freiburg and then we went on vacation to the south of France.  I thought I would recover from all my complaints by not doing much but laze on the beach. Well, my condition did improve but the minute I got back into my daily routine, the backaches started off again. Now I’m going to see an oesteopath which is going to make a dent in my pocket!

Getting back to the nicer part of the month, I did have a lovely time on the Côte d’Azur in the south of France, revisiting places I know and discovering new ones. The weather was again, fantastic and I spent a lot of time on the beach – a real luxury for me. There was light rain on only one day and only for a short period of time. Everything was perfect. I wasn’t so strict with my low carb diet and just upped my insulin to accommodate the increased carbs but having said that, there were a lot of choices and one could easily order a salad or find something with vegetables. I brought a low carb bread mix with me and baked it up in the apartment so I was able to have some low carb bread for breakfast during the first week. It is hard though, to eat low carb bread and watch the rest of the family trying out all the different baguettes and croissants. In the end, I must admit, I gave in and like I said, upped the insulin. Lucikly, I was able to resist the tempting patisseries in the bakeries by not going in at all and in the restaurants, well, the prices took care of that. Coming back home was hard and a lot of work –  grocery shopping, baking up low carb bread, low carb snacks and getting back into the routine.

With all the eating I’ve done this month, needless to say, I’ve put on a little weight and will have to spend the next five weeks getting it off before our next vacation! 🙂

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