The Chemin de Saint Jacques de Compostelle is the French name for what is called in Spanish the Camino de Santiago. In fact, there are connected walking trails all over Europe that head towards Santiago de Compostela near the north coast of Spain. Purportedly, the remains of St. James the Apostle are entombed in the magnificent cathedral there. Believers and non-believers make this pilgrimage as a meditation, a break from the world, or just for a lark.
We have walked much of the Camino, and many kilometers of the Chemin. After the long Covid interval, we returned last autumn to France and the Chemin. Yes, it was beautiful, and prayerful, and magnificent and all that. And, of course, there is the food and wine.
Dutch friends had retired to France and met us to tag along. We were on a more obscure part of the Chemin, where Americans rarely go. When we met the occasional fellow pilgrim, and they saw that we spoke English, they would extend their condolences about the death of Queen Elizabeth. When this had happened three times, we finally stopped saying we were from the U.S. and just thanked them for the kind sentiment.
Hans and Margriet suggested that we start our walk in the town of Figeac and meet at an elegant restaurant that was a favorite of theirs. The place was every American’s idea of a stately old French eatery: thick rich draperies, beautiful dishware, and cutlery. The six of us were seated at an ornately decorated round table.
Then the unexpected—after a long wait—an old-ish woman emerged in what we would call “a house dress” and slippers. She had a small piece of paper upon which she recorded our order. She returned shortly with the bottle of wine we had ordered, and, without ceremony, plopped the already opened bottle on the table. We were to pour it ourselves. We could hardly stifle our smiles. Eventually we figured that someone hadn’t shown up for work, and Mom was called into help.
Didn’t matter. The food was sublime. Several courses, fantastic wines, we had a wonderful time.
My first course was a tomato soup with basil sorbet. Cold and delicious, tasting of the freshest tomato. The sorbet kept the soup cold and added the perfect complement to those tomatoes.
Enjoy this gorgeous soup on one of these summer days. Think of France.
Chilled Tomato Soup with Basil Sorbet
For the soup:
- 3 lb fresh tomatoes (4-5 large tomatoes)
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 T Kosher salt
- 4 T olive oil
- 2 T red wine, or sherry vinegar
For the sorbet:
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ cup lime juice
- A fistful of basil leaves
Put the tomatoes in a large porcelain bowl and pour boiling water over the tomatoes to soften the skin. Wait five minutes till the tomatoes can be handled, then remove and discard the cores and skin. Now cut the tomatoes into large chunks, put them in a clean bowl and add the other ingredients. Allow these to macerate for 15 minutes to one hour.
Place the mixture in a food processor or use an immersion blender and pulse or blend till smooth. A purist would then push the soup through a sieve to remove the seeds, but I like the seeds and feel that the pulp around the seeds is most flavorful.
Add enough cold water to dilute the soup to a total of six cups. Taste the soup and add more salt if necessary. Chill for several hours before serving.
To prepare the sorbet, cook the water, sugar, and lime juice in a small pan, over medium heat, to dissolve the sugar. Allow to cool. Put the basil leaves and this sugar/juice mixture into a small food processor and pulse till smooth. If desired, push the mixture through a sieve to remove any large pieces. Pour the mixture into a shallow plastic or glass container and put it in the freezer. Remove from the freezer every 30 minutes and stir so that it doesn’t freeze solid. After two hours, it should be ready.
Serve the soup in a shallow bowl and add a small scoop of the sorbet.