Vegetable soup with salted herbs

I didn’t make it very far into my latest cookbook purchase, Fresh Canadian Bistro , before landing on a recipe that caught my eye and drove me into the kitchen to check my vegetable supplies: Chives Chef Darren Lewis’s “Grosse soupe du petit jardin” (literally “big soup from the little garden,” but glossed in the recipe as “hearty garden patch soup”) is the kind of recipe that’s best made at this time of year, when farmers’ markets are burgeoning with summer produce. Essentially a mixed vegetable soup in beef broth, it calls for no less than 11 different vegetables.

Admittedly, I don’t know of any region where shelling peas, corn and parsnips are all in season at the same time, so I cheated a bit and used peas that I’d blanched and frozen earlier in the year. I can’t say it harmed the flavour of the resulting soup. Normally, I prefer soups that can be classified as “thin vegetable purees” over those that are “pieces floating in broth,” but this one highlighted how satisfying a simple dish can be when made with quality seasonal ingredients.

What really perked up my mental palate, though, was the inclusion of salted herbs in the ingredient list. I first learned of this French-Canadian specialty in Julian Armstrong’s book A Taste of Quebec as herbes salées, and subsequently picked up the commercial product on a visit to Montreal. Armstrong offers precious little information on their history, and only a couple of uses for them – though she does offer a recipe for making them yourself – and my jar quickly migrated to the back of the fridge, the oubliette for unused condiments. Needless to say, I was excited to find a use for them.

Salted herbs, unsurprisingly, are made by layering finely chopped herbs and vegetables with salt in a nonreactive bowl, then storing them in the fridge for a time, before the accumulated liquid is drained off and the herbs packed into jars. To me, this sounds a lot like pickling, and I’d be surprised if this seasoning didn’t have a long history in a country like Canada where preserving foods through the harsh winter was once a way of life. The benefit of this preservation for me, of course, is that the herbs are as good now as the day I bought them. And now my interest in them has been renewed…

Are you familiar with salted herbs? What do you use them for?

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Email

7 Responses to “Vegetable soup with salted herbs”