Anyone who’s been to Le Pain Quotidien or read about Alain Coumont, the chef behind LPQ, can’t help but be inspired by both his outlook on life and fabulous recipes. I read an eye-opening spread in Food & Wine magazine earlier this summer, astonished to find he’s trying to introduce veganism into his life and the food at his LPQ locations. Reading him explain how easy it is to cook, I wondered how true that actually was. I’ve already experimented with veganism and decided not to pursue that path long-term, but after reading that article I was willing to give it a second shot.
In the end, I cut out all but one recipe from that article – and the one missing recipe was left behind because it was a simple rice-and-veggie salad that I make versions of on my own. On the Sunday before I whipped up this quick weeknight dinner, I made his recipe for braised baby artichokes with carrots and onions and a fantastic tomato coulis. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of using small adult globe artichokes instead of the more tender baby variety (thanks, central New Jersey grocery stores and limited farmers’ markets). But despite having to scrape the artichoke meat off every leaf with my teeth – okay for Sunday night by myself but not so convenient when that dinner became Monday’s and Tuesday’s leftover lunches at work – the base flavors of the recipe and that unbelievable tomato coulis more than made up for the logistical troubles.
So, I was extremely confident his recipe for zucchini soup, lauded as creamy and out of this world, would be equally palette pleasing. And let me tell you: it was all that and more! The reason I’m sharing this recipe and not that for the braised artichokes is because this was so surprisingly perfect. I have no idea how the humble zucchini can pull off this much taste and texture, but believe me, it can. Somehow, puréeing the zucchinis and sautéed onions transforms them like a Cartier diamond necklace transforms a boring sheath. The soup was velvety, like a silken river flowing down my throat. You cannot skip the basil, either, because it adds just the right fresh flavor. Make. This. Tonight.
Oh, and those soy cheese croissantwiches? Merely a way for me to use up the soy cheese I had leftover from my carrot and soy cheese pasta bake and an extra croissant that was threatening to go stale. The sandwich was wholly unnecessary to make this meal great, but they were still good in their own right. This soup really only needs a chewy baguette if you really must insist on a bread-like accompaniment, but a simple cheese or ham and cheese tartine would be an appropriate side as well for a delicious dinner – no, a perfect dinner.
- 1 Tbsp olive oil, preferably Kalamata
- 1 small or 1/2 medium or large onion, preferably Vidalia, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 lb zucchini (~8 small or 5-6 medium), thinly sliced
- 3 cups water
- 2 Tbsp basil, finely chopped or shredded
- salt and freshly ground pepper
Sautée the onion and garlic until it turns translucent over medium heat, about 8 minutes; add the garlic halfway through those 8 minutes. Add the thyme and bay leaf; cook until fragrant. Add the zucchini and salt, then cook until tender (lid the saucepan), about 10 minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil. Mix in the basil. Remove the saucepan from the heat and purée with a hand blender until the soup is very smooth. Alain served his soup cold with blanched zucchini ribbons, but I’m not a fan of cold soups or fancy decorations just for myself, so I ate it warm and plain. Up to you.