- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Lydie Marshall was raised on soup during World War II, when food supplies were tight.

The best she can say about her childhood soup meals is that they were filling.

“I didn’t really care for it,” says Miss Marshall, a cooking instructor and cookbook author.

That was then. Now that Miss Marshall divides her time between New York and Nyons, in the Provence region of France, where she runs a cooking school, she has a finer appreciation of the dish.

“Soup is nice to make and pretty, and it’s not tiring. You’re not going to kill yourself making soup,” says Miss Marshall, who was in the United States recently to promote her new cookbook, “Soup of the Day” (HarperCollins).

In French homes, soup is dinner. “In the country, lunch is the main meal. My neighbors in Nyons have their main meal at noon and eat rather late in the evening. They generally have soup made from leftovers from the week’s meals,” Miss Marshall says.

Vegetable soups, with a touch of butter or cream, are favorites among the French, she says.

“In the United States, people put butter on their bread. In France, people swirl butter into soup and have their bread without butter,” Miss Marshall says.

If you’re looking for a change from hearty winter vegetables, try greens such as watercress and spinach in your soup, the cooking instructor suggests.

Vegetables taste better if you cook them in oil first, but you can eliminate that step. However, you should not use any vegetables that are too old to eat.

“Pigs are the garbage disposal. Your soup shouldn’t be,” Miss Marshall says. “If you have tired vegetables in your refrigerator, toss them. Leftovers are OK, but they should still be fresh-tasting.”

Here is an adaptation of Miss Marshall’s vibrant green vegetable soup.

Although this recipe serves fewer than Miss Marshall’s original, it’s more than two people will eat at a meal. Chill the leftovers and serve later in the week as a refreshing cold soup.

Instead of serving this soup with a plain slice of bread as the French would, try mushroom, onion and feta cheese crostini — a savory morsel served on a slice of toasted bread.

Spinach and watercress soup

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small celery root, peeled and diced into -inch cubes

1 leek, white part only, trimmed and diced

3 cups chicken broth, divided

1 12-ounce bag washed baby spinach leaves

1 bunch watercress, washed and coarsely chopped

to 1 teaspoon salt

teaspoon pepper

teaspoon ground nutmeg

Whipping cream, optional

Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add celery root and leek and cook over low-medium heat for 15 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. Add cup of chicken broth if the vegetables start to stick.

Add the spinach, watercress, remaining chicken broth, teaspoon salt, pepper and nutmeg. The spinach will overfill the pot but will cook down quickly. Cover the pot and cook at medium heat 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Spoon the mixture into a blender and blend to a puree. Taste and add the remaining teaspoon of salt, if necessary.

To serve, spoon soup into bowls. If desired, drizzle 1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream over or into each serving.

Makes 4 servings.

Note: Leftover soup freezes well.

Mushroom, onion and feta cheese crostini

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced

4 large shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps thinly sliced

teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon fresh minced thyme

2 large slices sourdough bread, cut -inch thick

2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese

Heat oil in a large skillet.

Add the onion, mushrooms, salt and thyme and saute over high heat 2 minutes, or until vegetables are limp and tender.

Spread onion mixture over the 2 slices of bread. Place bread on a cookie sheet.

Sprinkle bread with crumbled cheese.

Bake in a 400-degree oven for 4 to 5 minutes to heat through. Makes 2 servings.


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