One of the nicest things you can do for yourself, or a friend, is to make a pot of soup. Clever soup has the power to comfort, nourish and inspire.
I first met potage (pronounced poh-tahj) when I lived in Paris. I was thrilled to be living on Gertrude Stein’s street, at 16 rue de Fleurus in the 6th arrondissement, off the Jardin de Luxembourg. My hostess, an extremely religious spinster, Mademoiselle Ley, served potage to Mary, Chris and me every evening as our first course. We never tired of it. It warmed us and settled our tummies for the meal to come.
The French have been making potage since time began. The beauty of potage is that you make it with whatever vegetables you have around. In lean times, the potage is thin; in good times, it’s thick.
Potage is the “little black dress” of your cooking repertoire. It is elegant and easy. It is sexily delicious and good for you too. It is perfect when you think you have nothing in the house to eat…or when you want to start a dinner party with soup. Girlfriends and boyfriends will look at you with longing eyes. Children love potage.
Whenever I’m feeling blue or ill, or hungry — I fill a pot with water and throw in a few vegetables, and suddenly, the world is not such a scary place anymore.
I’ll start you off with quantities and vegetable suggestions, but you make it with whatever you have in the house, using whatever quantity of water you want. Start tasting and adjusting until you have something you like.
8 cups of water
1 large onion
Some squash – either a few zucchini or whatever you have (1/2 a butternut; or one red pepper…you get the idea!)
Put the water in a large pot to bring to a boil.
Peel the veggies. Chop everything into large chunks. Toss into the pot.
Cover the pot and lower to a low boil. Simmer until the veggies are soft. Maybe 30-40 minutes.
When the veggies are soft enough to pierce easily with a fork, turn off the flame.
When everything is cool enough, scoop the veggies with a little bit of the broth into a blender and blend to a puree. You can also use an immersion blender right in the pot. Return the puree to the pot of leftover cooking water.
Stir your potage. If the potage is too watery, boil it down a bit. If it is too thick, add some water. You want a uniform, smooth soup. Velvet is the word.
Simmer your lovely potage as you add the seasonings. Again, whatever you have on hand: A tablespoon or two of powdered chicken broth is key. Taste and then add salt. A few grinds of pepper. I like to snip some fresh dill and parsley into it. You might add a pinch of thyme. A splash of balsamic vinegar makes the flavors sing.
In France, potage is served in a shallow soup bowl. You can serve it alone as a first course or pair it with a baguette and thinly sliced ham. To glam it up, toss a few croutons in it or swirl some yogurt or sriacha. You get the idea.
Do you have a favorite soup recipe? We want to know about it! Share it below! In the meantime, go make a pot of potage and tell us about it.
P.S. Potage is especially good for nursing a loved one back to health. When my DD had her tonsils out over Christmas break, potage was what she requested, cooled down to lukewarm for her healing throat.