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Discover herbes de Provence with pauper's soup

Posted March 18

You may have overlooked a powerhouse of flavor, herbes de Provence, hiding in your grocer's spice aisle.

This family of aromatic seasonings, which includes culinary lavender, grows most abundantly in southern France, where it first gained popularity.

Versatile uses for herbes de Provence vary from poultry and beef rubs to seafood marinades to a heavenly addition for topping fresh salads. When blended with softened cream cheese, you have a quick, impressive hors d'oeuvre.

My first awareness of this unique, time-honored flavor came when served Pauper's Soup, comprised of crusty day-old French bread torn in small pieces; heady, grated Swiss cheese; and lightly salted, piping hot chicken broth. It has been described as the humblest of comfort soups, and I heartily agree.

Discover this secret herb blend and add a new twist to even your simplest culinary creations in all four seasons. This recipes serves four.

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PAUPER'S SOUP

1 small loaf French bread, day-old, torn or cut in small pieces

2 cups good Swiss cheese, grated

3-4 teaspoons herbes de Provence (may need to be crushed, read individual spice label)

6-8 cups chicken broth, piping hot, lightly salted

Optional dash of black pepper

In each individual soup bowl, place ¾ cup dried, torn French bread, enough to cover the bottom.

Add ½ cup grated Swiss cheese to top the bread.

Sprinkle ½-1 teaspoon herbes de Provence to top cheese. This herb is strong. I recommend ½-¾ teaspoon when trying for the first time.

Heat chicken broth in microwave or in saucepan until piping hot. Pour 1½-2 cups broth to top bread, cheese and herbes de Provence. The broth will quickly melt cheese and soak into bread pieces. Enjoy!

Shannon M. Smurthwaite is a Southern California native, cookbook author, food columnist and freelance writer. Her blog: www.myitalianmama.com. She and her husband, Donald, reside in Idaho. Email: shannonisitalian@gmail.com

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