As a new parent, dinners have become rather rough and ready in our house — most nights, even defrosting spaghetti sauce feels like a lot of effort. But soup is always soothing — especially as the days grow shorter — so when I discovered Patricia Wells‘s super fast zucchini and fresh basil velouté, I raced to the market to buy the last of the local summer squash.
As you probably know, Patricia is an American journalist, author and teacher (I’ve always wanted to take one of her cooking classes) who divides her time between Paris and Provence. Her cookbooks are among my favorites for simple, fresh and healthy French cuisine — and I was delighted to discover that her newest, The French Kitchen Cookbook (in stores today!), offers many fast recipes, perfect for weeknights. (It also has gorgeous photographs, recipes for cozy winter braised dishes, and an exciting chapter on sorbets — I’m dying to try the fig and the chocolate honey.) Today, I’m thrilled to welcome Patricia and share a few of her quick cooking secrets and a recipe from her beautiful new book.
On her all-time favorite fast dinner:
We are huge pizza fans and that’s on the menu with great regularity. We always have tomato sauce and we make our own bulk sausage for pizza and freeze that in eight-ounce containers.
In an emergency:
I freeze soups, daubes, etc in “just for two” containers so we always have something to eat when I don’t have time to cook. Especially when you are cooking for two, make enough for the freezer.
On “creative freezing”:
I have found that you can freeze mozzarella so you can have that on hand just in case the stores are closed. I also slice my homemade sourdough bread and freeze in Ziplock bags six slices at a time so we can always have fresh bread when we want it.
On her favorite fridge staples:
Eggs, mozzarella, Parmesan, lots of mustards, hot sauces, yuzu juice, cottage cheese.
And in her pantry:
Lots of dried, ground hot peppers (Espelette and Aleppo are my favorites), jars of marinated artichokes, canned cubed Italian tomatoes, a variety of crackers, individual squares of dark chocolate.
On her favorite quick recipes from The French Kitchen Cookbook:
Zucchini and basil velouté
Yellow tomato soup
Cucumber soup with avocado
Instant, thin-crust pizza with mozzarella, artichokes, capers, and olives
Penne with tomatoes, olives, artichokes, and capers — like a pizza in pasta form!
Zucchini and fresh basil velouté
Adapted from The French Kitchen Cookbook by Patricia Wells
*Note from Ann: I loved the velvety texture of this healthy, pureed vegetable soup. You can serve it cold or hot — I chose the latter, paired with the book’s tomato and mozzarella tartines (accidentally singed) (documented on Instagram).
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, peeled and cut into thin half moons
2 pounds zucchini, unpeeled and cut into a 2-inch dice
1 quart chicken stock
1 bunch fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper
In a stockpot over low heat, warm the oil and sweat the onions until softened and translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add the zucchini and chicken stock, and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes or until the zucchini is soft and cooked through. Roughly chop the basil and add it to the soup. Puree with an immersion blender until smooth and velvety. Taste and season with salt and pepper.