The good folks at the Washington Post asked  me to have a look at ‘Home’ by Washington restaurant insider Bryan Voltaggio, and as a non-DC-based reviewer I felt honored to be asked.  Besides, who doesn’t love it when a chef takes his skills back to the home front – restaurant-quality meals scaled down for 4, with equipment all of us have.  Easy! and fast! Right?

Well, maybe not. I’ll let you read for yourself.  Let’s just say, this is one of those stories where I found myself obliged to use the word “compost”.

 Click here to read this week’s review of  ‘Home’ in the Washington Post.

Meanwhile, in the Boston Globe today, you’ll find my review of Brassicas.  Kale, as you probably know, is so hot – hotter than any green has ever been, probably – that there is an actual global shortage of kale seed.  (I couldn’t in fact get any for my own garden this year).  But for heaven’s sake, it’s not the only crucifer there is.  What about Brussels sprouts? and arugula? and cauliflower? and good old broccoli?

Russell’s book has good suggestions for them all.  Please, try them! try them!  then maybe we’ll have enough kale for everybody again next year.

Click here to read this today’s review of review of ‘Brassicas’ in the Boston Globe.   Hit the paywall?  Click here for the PDF version of this week’s ‘Brassicas’ review

It was almost 9 months ago that I first tested Recipes from my French Grandmother.  In the interval since, New England’s been locked in winter(and now, just barely unlocked), my son’s grown 3 inches (not kidding), and half a dozen more French cookbooks have come and gone.

Yet for all that, this one’s worth a second look.  It’s not showy and not particularly new, but there’s good value to be had in this small, attractive package.  At least one recipe – the vegetable soup with basil pistou – has made it to the favorites list.

Click here to read today’s review of ‘Recipes from my French Grandmother’ in the Boston Globe.   Hit the paywall?  Click here for the PDF version of this week’s ‘French Grandmother’ review

Very excited to present my second review for the Washington Post – and my first using my own photography!  D.C. and my house are 400 miles away from each other, which means my reviews can’t use the Post‘s excellent facilities. So my amazing editors agreed to let me try shooting at home, and I promptly treated myself to some pro-grade lighting.  I’ve missed doing food photography since NPR’s Kitchen Window column closed, so it was nice to have an excuse to get back into it (and shop at B&H!).

Even better than geeking out with my SLR again, though, was the testing – dish after dish after dish full of glorious fungi.  I didn’t have to test over a dozen recipes, but I just couldn’t stop.

Click here to read this week’s review of  ‘Shroom’ in the Washington Post.

Meanwhile, in the Boston Globe today, you’ll find my late-to-the-gate but enthusiastic review of Andrea Nguyen’s The Banh Mi Handbook.  (Actually, I tested it back in July of last year, but as they used to say at my local pizza parlor, “Good food takes time…”) Those of you who follow this blog already know how much I love this book, which I believe has gone into multiple reprintings already thanks to the millions of banh-maniacs in this country and elsewhere.

Click here to read this today’s review of The Banh Mi Handbook in the Boston Globe.   Hit the paywall?  Click here for the PDF version of this week’s ‘Banh Mi Handbook’ review


Dear readers, it’s been a hectic few weeks on the personal front here at T. Susan Chang, Inc.  2014 ended with a bang (including the Best Recipes of 2014 series and lots of NPR cookbook coverage).  The next week my dad fell ill, and my family scrambled to fashion a Christmas of sorts while my sister and I tromped in and out of hospitals and nursing homes.  Next week, my new food writing course for the MFA in Creative Nonfiction Program at Bay Path College begins, and a brand-new adventure for me in teaching.

There’s scarcely been a moment to draw breath, but meanwhile the news continues to publish, and while my attention’s been elsewhere three of my reviews appeared in the Boston Globe.  Click on the cover images above to read them.

And if you’d like to skip straight to buying them, links are below:

Click to buy Bitter / Eat / Silk Road Vegetarian !

All good things must come to an end…
But such a sweet end!  Our Best Recipes of 2014 series concludes with an unassuming-looking, crumbly, unadorned cake of a modest chestnut hue.  Don’t be fooled by appearances.

The book:  Bitter, by Jennifer McLagan (10 Speed Press, $29.99)

The recipe:  Walnut cake

Why I tried itIt was just one of those synesthetic moments you get with cookbooks: I saw the word “bitter” (referring, in this case, to the walnuts). I saw the word “orange”.  I saw the faintly blue gleam of the steel dessert plates in the photograph, which I found devastatingly chic.  In my mouth, I tasted butter.  Out came the Post-Its!

Why I loved it:  Oranges and walnuts! a match made in heaven.  That plus a faintly chewy, profoundly buttery crumb. It was like the darker and more glamorous cousin of a financier.   Eat it forkful by dense and tender forkful with completely unsweetened whipped cream or crème fraîche.  Sip a little coffee, and wish – not for the the first time – that you had a nice big 4-chambered stomach, like a cow’s, instead of the one you’ve got.

Estimated preparation time: About 1 1/2 hours: A leisurely 40 minutes to toast and grind the nuts, prepare the yolk/butter mix, prepare the whites, and fold them together.  Another 50 minutes for the baking.


Walnut Cake

5 1⁄2 ounces walnut halves
2 slices white bread
2⁄3 cup / 5¼ ounces unsalted butter, diced
2⁄3 cup / 4 1⁄2 ounces sugar
4 eggs, separated
¾ teaspoon ground cardamom
A pinch of fine sea salt
1 Seville or regular orange
A pinch of cream of tartar
Cocoa powder

1.  Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C. Butter a 9-inch / 23-cm springform cake pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.

2.  Spread the walnuts and bread slices on a baking sheet and place in the oven for 10 minutes or until the bread is dry and the nuts are lightly toasted. Let cool slightly. Lower the oven temperature to 325°F / 160°C.

3.  Put the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Set 3 tablespoons of the sugar aside and add the remaining sugar to the butter. Cream the butter and sugar until they are light and fluffy. Meanwhile, place the walnuts and toasted bread in a food processor and pulse until finely ground.

4.  Add the egg yolks, one at a time, to the creamed butter and sugar, beating well after each addition. Stir in the ground walnut and bread mixture, then add the cardamom and salt. Finely grate the zest from the orange and add to the mixture; set the orange aside for another use.

5.  In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy; add the cream of tartar, and continue to whisk until white. Add the reserved 3 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking until the whites are glossy and resemble whipped cream. Add a large spoonful of the egg whites to the walnut batter and stir to lighten. Tip the batter onto the egg whites and fold lightly until mixed.

6.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for about 50 minutes or until dark golden and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out dry.  Let the cake cool for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the cake and unmold onto a cooling rack. Let cool completely, then dust with cocoa powder.

Reprinted from Bitter by Jennifer McLagan. Copyright (c) 2014. Published by 10 Speed Press

Don’t tell your family about this dish, or you’ll have to make enough for 4, which means two batches, which means having to clean out the wok in between.

The book:  Simple Thai Food, by Leela Punyaratabandhu (10 Speed Press, $24.99 – here’s my complete review)

The recipe:  Rice noodles “drunkard’s style” with chicken

Why I tried it: I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had a Thai noodle dish I didn’t like.  Over many years and many tweaks, I’ve gotten to be pretty happy with my pad thai.  But I was still on the hunt for a wide-rice-noodle dish I could make at home that would satisfy me as much as the ones I had out.  This was simply the next station on that quest.

Why I loved it:  The sauce!  This. Is. The. Sauce.  You know how you go to a noodle place, and your soul is basically enslaved to that place forever because you don’t think you can reproduce the sauce at home? Well, this was the Sauce of Freedom for me.  It’s just thin soy + dark sweet soy [kecap manis] + oyster sauce + fish sauce, it turns out.  But combined with the garlic and Thai basil, the onion wedges and with maybe an assist from the tomato, it’s got that upfront caramel, the anisey top notes, and the forever-umami finish that had me plonking down $7.95 a pop for I don’t know how many years.  Free at last!

Estimated preparation time: 40-45 minutes max if you’re using fresh noodles, a little more if you have to boil some dried noodles  (but not much, because you’re efficient and you ALWAYS chop stuff when your water’s busy getting to a boil).


Rice Noodles “Drunkard’s Style” with Chicken

Two things you should know: 1) if for whatever reason, you can’t quite mash the aromatics into a paste and you’ve got little bits of garlic flying around asking to get burnt, then lessen both time and temperature in that first frying step. 2) Read the author’s extensive endnote on boiling wide rice noodles, in case you’ve been soaking them in warm water your whole life and you don’t believe you should do it any different now.


2 fresh bird’s eye chiles, or fewer or more
1 large shallot, about 1 ounce
2 large cloves garlic
1 pound fresh wide rice noodles, or 8 ounces dried wide rice noodles, prepared according to instructions below*
8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 yellow or white onion, cut into 1-inch-wide wedges
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons thin soy sauce
2 tablespoons sweet dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons packed grated palm sugar, or 1 teaspoon packed light or brown sugar
1 fresh large red or green Thai long chile, cut lengthwise on the diagonal into 1/4-inch wide strips
1 Roma tomato, quartered lengthwise, then quarters halved crosswise
1 cup loosely packed fresh holy basil leaves

In a mortar or a mini chopper, combine the bird’s eye chiles, garlic, and shallot and grind to a fine paste. Set aside.

If the noodles are in sheet form, rather than pre-cut, cut them lengthwise into 1-inch-wide strips and separate the layers into singles. Cut the chicken against the grain and on the diagonal into thin, bite-sized strips.

Heat the oil in a wok or a 14-inch skillet set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the prepared paste and stir until fragrant and slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Turn up the heat to high, add the onion wedges and let them brown on the underside, undisturbed, for 2 minutes. Flip them and brown the second side for 2 minutes. Add the chicken and fish sauce and stir until the chicken is cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Heat the oil in a wok or a 14-inch skillet set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the prepared paste and stir until fragrant and slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Turn up the heat to high, add the onion wedges and let them brown on the underside, undisturbed, for 2 minutes. Flip them and brown the second side for 2 minutes. Add the chicken and fish sauce and stir until the chicken is cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the noodles, oyster sauce, thin soy sauce, sweet soy sauce, sugar, long chile, and tomato and stir to mix. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the noodles soften and the sauce is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, add the basil, and stir just until wilted. Serve immediately.

They often come in several oil-lubricated layers of thin sheets, stacked together, packed in a disposable tray, and covered with plastic wrap. You can find them in the refrigerated section of most well-stocked Asian grocery stores. To prepare them for cooking, you need to cut the whole stack into strips about 1 inch wide and then carefully separate the layers into thin, wide ribbons. Sometimes the noodles come precut and require only that you separate them gently so as not to break them.Purchase fresh rice noodles in small batches and use them right away, as they lose their suppleness and flexibility quickly on refrigeration. They must never be frozen. If you are ever stuck with old, doughy, hard fresh rice noodles, cut them into strips and separate them into strands as instructed above, then blanch them for no more than 10 seconds in boiling water before cooking.
If you cannot find fresh rice noodles, buy the widest dried rice sticks (9 millimeters/about 1 wide) you can find. It is important to remember that you cannot simply soak these wide dried rice noodles until pliable in the same way you prepare thinner dried rice sticks for pad thai . You need to boil them in a large amount of water, as you would dried Italian pasta, and then drain them, rinse off any excess starch, drain them again, and use them like fresh rice noodles. Once cooked, dried wide rice noodles double in volume. Therefore, if a recipe calls for 1 pound of fresh wide rice noodles, you need 8 ounces of dried wide rice noodles to yield 1 pound of cooked noodles, which can be used the same way as fresh wide rice noodles.

Reprinted from Simple Thai Food by Leela Punyaratabandhu. (10 Speed Press, 2014).

The book:  The Banh Mi Handbook, by Andrea Nguyen (10 Speed Press, $16.99) – which, if you’ve been following my roundup coverage, you know is a total winner.

The recipe:  Viet home-style doner kebab.

Why I tried it:  I never used to know what people were talking about when they said “doner kebab,” but eventually I realized it was the same thing as the shawarma I ate from sidewalk carts back home in New York, and the gyro sandwich I ate for lunch every single day across the street from the darkroom where I worked in Boston.  From that point on, all 3 terms induced the same Pavlovian response in me.  So when one of my favorite authors interpreted one of my favorite foods through the palate of one of my favorite national cuisines, there was no question – I had to try it

Why I loved it:  This slab of protein has all the things I love about meatloaf, all the things I love about pork, and all the things I love about gyros/shawarma/whatever you call it.  It’s got a glistening soy-painted crust.  It’s easy, because you just throw it together in the Cuisinart.  You can eat it in a banh mi or on anything else, or all by itself.  The absolute worst thing about it is having to wait for hours till it’s cold enough to slice and eat, so when it comes out from the oven you’d better have another favorite food out on standby, ready to distract you and your greedy little fingers.

Estimated preparation time: About 1 hour, plus cooling time (if you can stand to wait that long)

Viet Home-Style Doner Kebab

2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
⅔ cup (3 oz / 90 g) coarsely chopped yellow onion
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne
¾ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
generous 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1½ tablespoons all-purpose flour, rice flour (brown or white), or almond meal flour
1 large egg
2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
1¼ pounds (565 g) ground pork, about 85 percent lean
1 teaspoon regular soy sauce mixed with ½ teaspoon water

1.  Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 425°F (220°C / gas mark 7). Line a baking sheet with foil and set aside.

2. Place the garlic, onion, pepper, cayenne, salt, cumin, cornstarch, flour, egg, and oil in the bowl of a food processor and whirl to create a finely textured, soupy mix- ture. Scrape down the sides, then add the pork, dropping it in as large chunks. Restart the processor to combine, letting it run for about 5 seconds after the meat begins gathering around the blade. Aim to mix things as if you were making a meatloaf. Visible bits of pork are good!

3. Use a spatula to scrape and mix in seasonings clinging to the processor walls. Transfer the meat to the prepared baking sheet and shape it into a slab, about 11⁄4 inches (3 cm) thick, 5 inches (12.5 cm) wide, and 8 inches (20 cm) long. For a lovely brown crust, use your fingers to paint the top and sides with the diluted soy mixture.

4. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is redwood tree brown and small sizzling bubbles appear. The meat will puff and maybe bend upward slightly. Cool completely before thinly slicing, or better yet, cool, wrap, and chill overnight or for as long as 3 days.

5. Cut the meat cold, then warm in a microwave oven or in a skillet over medium heat. Don’t fret if the meat slices break, just slide it all into your sandwich.
From The Banh Mi Handbook, by Andrea Nguyen. (10 Speed Press, 2014)

The book:  Fresh from the Farm, by Susie Middleton (Taunton Press, $28.00 – here’s my complete review)

The recipe:  Roasted Parmesan-crusted cod with baby potatoes

Why I tried it: love cod – the silky, dense, smooth, thick, moist flakes and subtle scent of the sea.  But since it’s become endangered, cod has been a rare treat for me.  When I do get it, I want a recipe that’s worth it.  And if I’m substituting halibut, I want a recipe that’s worth it.

There are two things I love about Susie Middleton recipes: 1) They always work.  And 2) They have flavor in places other recipes don’t even have places.  They’re like that stylish person you glimpse at a party who has actually taken the trouble to wear a hair accessory, and probably a scarf too, in a color that complements her shoes.  Truly amazing, people like that.  But I digress.  The point is, I thought this recipe would be worth it.

Why I loved it:  Here are some details you and I might not have thought of: whizzing an English muffin in the blender for easy, tender bread crumbs.  Gluing the crumbs to the fish with mayo that’s been doctored with mustard for more flavor.  Roasting the veg not just with oil, but balsamic and honey!  When it’s done, a dizzy flavor spins up out of the pan, like you’ve just walked across your herb garden, crushing the thyme underfoot.

Estimated preparation time:Just over 1 hour: 20 minutes of prep, 25 minutes of inital roasting while you do a litle more prep, 20 minutes of final roasting.


Roasted Parmesan-Crusted Cod with Baby Potatoes, Bell Peppers, Onions & Thyme
Serves 4

8 ounces small fingerling or baby red potatoes(smallest size you can find), cut in half lengthwise
1⁄2 medium bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small or medium onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
10 to 12 pitted Kalamata olives, cut in half
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
Kosher salt
Big pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
6 ounces firm-ripe cherry tomatoes (about 20) cut in half
3⁄4 cup fresh breadcrumbs (from 1 English muffin, blitzed in a food processor; a little extra is fine)
1⁄4 cup coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 1⁄2 pounds cod (or other firm white fish fillet like striped bass or halibut), cut into a few pieces to fit more easily into the pan

Heat the oven to 425°F. Combine the potatoes, peppers, onions, olives, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon thyme, the balsamic vinegar, honey, 3⁄4 teaspoon salt, and crushed red pepper in a mixing bowl and toss well. Spread in one layer in a 9- x 13-inch baking pan. Roast for 25 minutes. Reserve the bowl that the veggies were in and add the cherry tomatoes, 1 teaspoon oil, 1⁄2 teaspoon thyme, and a pinch of salt. Toss well.

In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, Parmigiano, the remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil, the remaining 1⁄2 tea-spoon thyme, and a big pinch of salt. In another small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise and mustard. Lay the fish on a plastic cutting board and season with salt. Spread the mayo-mustard mixture over the top of the fish and along the sides.  Add the cherry tomatoes to the pan of roasted vegetables and stir to combine.

Push the veggies to the edges of the pan to make room for the fish. Nestle the fish amongst the veggies; then pat the breadcrumb mixture over the fish pieces. Return the pan to the oven and roast for 20 to 22 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and the crust on the fish is golden. Cut the fish into serving pieces with a metal spatula and arrange on four plates. Spoon the veggies, along with the pan juices, around the fish. Serve right away.

Reprinted from Fresh from the Farm by Susie Middleton. Copyright (c) 2014 by Taunton Press.

The book:  Caribbean Potluck, by Suzanne and Michelle Rousseau (Kyle Books, $24.95 – here’s my complete review)

The recipe:  Red, Green, and Gold Salad with Toasted Almonds

Why I tried it: I don’t test a ton of many-ingredient salads – unless the ingredients list allows me to claim it’s a “dinner salad”.  If it’s a one-pot meal, I can justify spending most of my 1.5 hours of prep time on a salad.  Here the chickpeas were the clincher – “Protein!” I exclaimed, and promptly excused myself from rummaging in the freezer for some meat to defrost.

Why I loved it:  This one’s for everyone who eats with their eyes.  It’s a riot of color and flavor – bright and tropical in the summer, when I made it, and festive on the holiday table.  Thanks to the smooth avocado, slithery mangoes, velvety beets, crisp almonds, and crunchy onions, every bite has some kind of interesting texture effect.  You’ll probably still be experimenting and trying to decide whether you like velvety/crisp or slithery/crunchy better by the time you get to the bottom of your bowl.

Estimated preparation time: If you’ve already pickled the beets and you’re not too fussy about chopping vegetables into matchsticks, you can do this in under 45 minutes.  Otherwise, give yourself an hour and a quarter.


Photo: Ellen Silverman

Red, Green and Gold Salad with Toasted Almonds

The only real issue you may run into making this salad at this time of year is sourcing fresh mangoes.  Don’t sweat it – you can use frozen mangoes for the vinaigrette (or just buy a mango dressing if you can’t deal with that).  You can leave out the fresh mangoes, or sub in another ripe, sweet fruit that’s more available, like pears.  It won’t be the same, but it will still be great.
Serves 6

For the Pickled Beets
1⁄2 cup fresh lime juice
1⁄4 cup distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1⁄2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 small boiled beets, peeled and sliced
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

For the Mango Vinaigrette (makes about 1 cup)
1⁄2 cup mango puree, preferably fresh
1⁄3 cup distilled white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and ground white pepper

For the Salad:
8 ounces mixed greens
1 medium mango, sliced
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas
1⁄4 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1⁄2 cucumber, cut into matchsticks
1⁄2 red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
1 medium ripe avocado, sliced
4 ounces feta, crumbled (about 1 cup)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted

1. To make the marinade for the beets, in a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, vinegar, sugar, oil, garlic and mustard until blended. Season with salt and pepper. In a medium bowl, combine the beets and onion, pour the dressing over the beet mixture and season again with salt and pepper. Stir in the cilantro and let sit for at least 30 minutes or refrigerate for up to 1 week.

2 To make the mango vinaigrette, in a small bowl, whisk together the mango puree, vinegar, garlic and mustard. Gradually add the oil, whisking steadily until the vinaigrette thickens. Season with salt and white pepper.

3. To assemble the salad, place the greens in a large salad bowl. Add the mango, chickpeas, red onion, cucumber, bell pepper and avocado. Add half the feta and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with a liberal amount of mango vinaigrette and toss. Top with the beets, toasted almonds and the rest of the feta and serve immediately.

Caribbean Potluck by Suzanne and Michelle Rousseau is published by Kyle Books, priced $24.95. Photography by Ellen Silverman.

This year’s most VIRTUOUS Best Recipe.

The book:  Recipes from my French Grandmother, by Carole Clements and Elizabeth Wolf-Cohen (Lorenz Books, $18.99)

The recipe:  Provençal vegetable soup with basil pistou

Why I tried it: This is a “little of this, little of that” soup I tested in August, and I had lots of odd leftover vegetables and basil from the garden.  Even though it was still pretty warm out and I am usually only a soup-eater in cold weather, it seemed like a good way to use what I had on hand.  Also, I was Setting an Example for the children by trying to prove you can make something nice out of practically nothing.

Why I loved it:  I had a lot of faith in my vegetables coming together and behaving themselves, with a little careful chopping and sweating, but I  didn’t expect them to sing.  That was before I even dolloped on the pistou.  The pistou added a nimbus of spicy basil fragrance you could drown in, and it’s the reason I had seconds – and thirds – and even, to be honest, a tiny bit of fourths too.

Estimated preparation time: Put on some music and give yourself a good hour for chopping (this can happen while the beans are cooking), followed by an hour of simmering.  The good news is, this makes a lot, you can store it/freeze it, and it gets better every day.


Provençal Vegetable SoupProvençal Vegetable Soup with Pistou
Serves 6–8
There’s no need to be overly literal about the ingredients list. If you don’t have fava or navy beans, it’s OK to use other small beans – flageolets would be nice. (Bigger beans will need longer.) You could use even canned beans in a pinch, though the flavor isn’t as fine. You could use different vegetables. But do take the trouble to chop small dice – it makes a difference.  You can skip the pistou if you’re vegan, but otherwise definitely don’t.

1 1⁄2 cups fresh fava beans, shelled, or 3⁄4 cup dried haricot (navy) beans, soaked overnight
1⁄2 tsp dried herbes de Provence
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 small or 1 large leek, finely sliced
1 celery stick, finely sliced
2 carrots, finely diced
2 small potatoes, finely diced
4oz green beans
5 cups water
1 cup shelled peas, fresh or frozen
2 small zucchini, finely chopped
3 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
Handful of spinach leaves, cut into thin ribbons
Sprigs of fresh basil, to garnish

For the pistou
1 or 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1⁄2 cup (packed) basil leaves
4 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. To make the pistou, put the garlic, basil and Parmesan cheese in a food processor and process until smooth, scraping down the sides once. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil through the feed tube. Or, alternatively, pound the garlic, basil and cheese in a mortar and pestle and stir in the oil.

2. To make the soup, if using dried haricot beans, place them in a pan and cover with water. Boil vigorously for 10 minutes and drain. Place the par-boiled beans, or fresh beans if using, in a pan with the herbes de Provence and one of the garlic cloves. Add water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer over a medium-low heat until tender, about 10 minutes for fresh beans and about 1 hour for dried beans. Set aside in the cooking liquid.

3. Heat the oil in a large pan or flameproof casserole. Add the onion and leeks, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion just softens.

4. Add the celery, carrots and the other garlic clove and cook, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring.

5. Add the potatoes, green beans and water, then season lightly with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, skimming any foam that rises to the surface, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes

6. Add the zucchini, tomatoes and peas together with the reserved beans and their cooking liquid and simmer for 25–30 minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender. Add the spinach and simmer for 5 minutes. Season the soup and swirl a spoonful of pistou into each bowl. Garnish with basil and serve


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