One of the great treats in the south of France is soup flavored with a robust paste or a mayonnaise-type dressing. The flavoring pastes are either offered on the side or swirled into the soup just before serving. Here, a fairly mild vegetable broth gets a tasty jolt from a paste of tomatoes, basil and garlic. If you're pressed for time, use the paste to liven up canned commercial soup.
3 quarts water
1 1/2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 small potatoes, diced
1 1/2 cups leeks, white part only, diced
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup cooked white navy or lima beans
1 cup green peas
Dash red pepper flakes
Croutons or Melba toast
Bring water to boil in large kettle. Add carrots, potatoes, leeks and salt. Cover and simmer 1 hour.
Add beans, peas, saffron and pepper flakes to soup. Let simmer, covered, 15 minutes more. Stir 1 cup of hot soup into Tomato-Basil Paste, then pour mixture into soup pot. Stir well. Serve with croutons. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
2 large cloves garlic
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons minced fresh basil or 1 tablespoon dried basil
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Mash garlic in mixing bowl. Add tomato paste, Parmesan cheese and basil, stirring well to blend. Stir in olive oil, 1 tablespoon at time, until well incorporated. Makes about 1/4 cup.