My relocation to Texas has been anything but swift, but for the most part this is by design. Although my husband now calls the Lone Star Sate home, I live a few weeks here, a few weeks there and in between season my life with sweet farewells. Certainly, these occasions are laced with sadness, but they also present opportunities for new memories that will endure for a lifetime and strengthen existing bonds of friendship and devotion. It’s a treat to spend 48 hours simply enjoying the company of others with no pressure, no pretense…..
A short time ago, Oliver and I joined Paige, Don and of course the ever handsome Finn (their dear doodle) at their home for a relaxed weekend of cooking that we like to refer to as “The Days of Ina”. If you have yet to make her Lobster Corn Fritters consider yourself seriously deprived. To our great joy, the stars once again aligned for an extended slumber party (and Season 3 of Downton Abbey), except this time we found ourselves at their home on the coast where typically our beach gatherings include my husband, but for obvious reasons this tradition was upheld in spirit alone.
Continuing with the “Ina” theme and fortunate to get our hands on fresh spring produce we made Provencal Vegetable Soup from her Barefoot in Paris cookbook. I’m always startled at how easy it is to make because the flavor is seriously complex. Homemade broth is the essential foundation while saffron is the secret ingredient. For those who don’t desire hours in the kitchen yet still want to impress, this soup will make a hero out of you! It’s highly satisfying on its own, but was divine with a Sausage and Kale Tart from Food 52. It’s one of those meals that even though I just had it, I’m already scheming to make it again.
Being separated from one’s husband is not ideal (good news….neither of us have died), yet if this must be the circumstance, I cannot imagine another place where I’d be as welcomed and treated with as much love and consideration as with my sister Paige and her dear kind husband…who (to my knowledge) has yet to get sick of seeing so much of me.
Adapted from Ina Garten's Provencal Vegetable Soup.
On paper (or screen) this soup may not be regarded as "wow" but I assure you it's deceptively special. Like a natural beauty with a simple swipe of mascara and a slip of gloss.
- 2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups chopped yellow onion (about 1 large)
- 2 cups leeks (2-4 depending on size) white and light green parts thinly sliced
- 3 cups red new potatoes, unpeeled and chopped into small cubes (about 1 pound)
- 3 cups chopped carrots, peeled (about 1 pound)
- 1 ½ TBSP kosher salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 3 quarts homemade chicken broth
- 1 tsp saffron threads
- ½ lb haricot verts, cut in thirds
- 4 oz whole wheat spaghetti
- Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving
- In a large pot over medium heat (I used a 9 quart Dutch oven) heat the olive oil. Add the onions and sauté for 8-10 minutes until soft and translucent.
- Add the potatoes, carrots, leeks, salt and pepper and sauté for another 5 minutes.
- Pour in the stock then add the saffron and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
- Add the haricots verts and spaghetti and return the soup to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes until the pasta is al dente.
- Taste for seasoning.
- Serve with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.