Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Vegetable Bouillabaisse #recipe by @LeslieBudewitz

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: Mr. Right and I made our first trip to France in the fall of 2009 and fell completely in love with the country and the food. That next year, I was in San Francisco for Bouchercon and wandered through the Ferry Terminal Market with our dear, late friend, Sheila Connolly.

I have a soft spot for the Book Passage bookstore, long the host for the Elizabeth George Intensive Writing Workshop I attended many years ago. The main store is across the bay in Corte Madera, but there’s also a small, sweet shop in the Ferry Terminal building, and that’s where I found The French Country Table by Laura Washburn, which quickly became one of our favorite cookbooks. Washburn is greatly influence by the great Julia Child, but her focus is the simple bistro-style cooking that adapts so well to the home kitchen. The recipes are reliable, and actually turn out like the photographs, always a plus. 

Like all vegetable soups, this recipe requires a fair amount of chopping. But it keeps easily for several days, so make a few extra croûtons—toasted bread slices—and enjoy the leftovers for lunch. 

(Clean those leeks with ease; here’s my Leek-Potato Soup with instructions. Save the tops in your freezer for your next sauteed greens or vegetable soup.)

One disadvantage of living in a small town is that the grocery stores don’t offer the same variety as larger stores in larger towns. We had to use green pasilla peppers for the sauce, which have a similar punch but a slightly different flavor, and don’t add the same lovely red color. I think pimento or roasted red pepper would also be lovely, adding flavor and color without heat. Use what you can find that suits your taste. Rouille, by the way, is said ruh-wee, rhyming with ratatouille.  

Vegetable Bouillabaisse

adapted from The French Country Table by Laura Washburn

1/4 cup olive oil

2 leeks, white and light green parts, halved length-wise and sliced crosswise 

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

1 fennel bulb, halved and chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

3 large ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped

3 small red potatoes, cubed

2 quarts vegetable stock

1 bay leaf

1 sprig of thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves

1 strip of orange peel, about 1"X 3" 

1 teaspoon saffron, sweet paprika, or sumac 


kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

a handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley, for serving


1 garlic clove, minced

1-2 peppers, seeded and minced (see note above)

1 egg yolk, at room temperature

about 1-1/4 cups extra virgin olive oil

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil in a 6-8 quart stock pot. Add the leeks, onion, and fennel and cook about 10 minutes, until vegetables are soft, translucent, and just beginning to brown. Stir in the garlics, tomatoes, potatoes, and 1 teaspoon salt, and cook 1 minute. Add the stock, bay leaf, thyme, orange peel, and saffron (or alternative), and stir. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently for about 40 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste; cover and let stand at least 1 hour. (You can also make this a day ahead and refrigerate overnight.)

Make the croûtons. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice two or three pieces of the baguette for each serving. Arrange flat on a baking sheet. Top with cheese and bake 5-8 minutes, until golden and cheese is lightly melted. 

Make the rouille. Place garlic, peppers, and egg yolk in a small, deep bowl, or the container of an immersion blender. Beat well. Add the oil gradually and beat well, until the mixture is thick like mayonnaise. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, warm the soup if necessary. Ladle into bowl. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and top with a tablespoon or so of rouille. Aarrange toasts or croûtons on the edge of each soup plate. 

Serves 6-8. 

From the cover of BITTERROOT LAKE, written as Alicia Beckman (coming April 13, 2021 from Crooked Lane Books in hardcover, ebook, and audio): 

When four women separated by tragedy reunite at a lakeside Montana lodge, murder forces them to confront everything they thought they knew about the terrifying accident that tore them apart, in Agatha Award-winning author Alicia Beckman's suspense debut.

Twenty-five years ago, during a celebratory weekend at historic Whitetail Lodge, Sarah McCaskill had a vision. A dream. A nightmare. When a young man was killed, Sarah's guilt over having ignored the warning in her dreams devastated her. Her friendships with her closest friends, and her sister, fell apart as she worked to build a new life in a new city. But she never stopped loving Whitetail Lodge on the shores of Bitterroot Lake.

Now that she's a young widow, her mother urges her to return to the lodge for healing. But when she arrives, she's greeted by an old friend--and by news of a murder that's clearly tied to that tragic day she'll never forget.

And the dreams are back, too. What dangers are they warning of this time? As Sarah and her friends dig into the history of the lodge and the McCaskill family, they uncover a legacy of secrets and make a discovery that gives a chilling new meaning to the dreams. Now, they can no longer ignore the ominous portents from the past that point to a danger more present than any of them could know.

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries, and the winner of Agatha Awards in three categories. Death al Dente, the first Food Lovers' Village Mystery, won Best First Novel in 2013, following her 2011 win in Best Nonfiction. Her first historical short story, "All God's Sparrows," won the 2018 Agatha Award for Best Short Story. Watch for her first standalone suspense novel, Bitterroot Lake (written as Alicia Beckman) in April 2021 from Crooked Lane Books.

A past president of Sisters in Crime and a current board member of Mystery Writers of America, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat, an avid bird-watcher.

Swing by her website and join the mailing list for her seasonal newsletter. And join her on Facebook where she shares book news and giveaways from her writer friends, and talks about food, mysteries, and the things that inspire her.


  1. A lovely piece and what looks like a fantastic recipe. Thanks, Leslie!

  2. Yummy recipe, Leslie. I have fond memories of visiting the Ferry Terminal market and weekly FM multiple times. And I have bought more than a few books at the small Book Passage store there.

  3. This looks delicious--and very simple to make--Leslie! (And I think you've inspired me to whisk up some rouille simply to have in the fridge to sexy-up other dishes, as well!) Merci!

  4. Wow, that sounds amazing. And I love using leeks. Not in stores yet this season 😟 but soon. Thanks for sharing. Joliver284@yahoo.com

    1. They look kinda pre-historic, but they are so good! Enjoy!

  5. When we lived up north we had a bird feeder outside the dining room window. We called it BTV (bird tv) for the cats.

    I guess as Alicia you can get a bit grittier than as Leslie.

    This soup sounds lovely. Why does the picture without the croutons have large chunks of green in it? It almost looks like spinach.

    1. It's parsley. First time I served the soup, I followed the original recipe, putting the toasted bread and cheese under the soup. Second time, we put the toasts on the side, and liked that better -- but by then, we were out of parsley. The real-life life of a home cook. :)

    2. Thanks Big parsley leaves!

  6. This looks so good! Thanks for sharing the recipe!


  7. This looks like a great and easy to try recipe. Thank you, Leslie!