It took me far too long to get to Marmite for dinner. I, like much of Seattle, was thrilled when news of Bruce Naftaly’s rebound from retirement was announced a couple of years ago, having closed his beloved Le Gourmand in 2012. Okay, maybe I was a little more thrilled than most, being such a longtime fan of Bruce and his distinct, understated approach to showcasing amazing products.
I had managed to get to Marmite for lunch a couple of times, immediately charmed by its antithesis of run-of-the-mill midday offerings (cardoon, sunchoke and spinach soup with sorrel-walnut pistou; lightly smoked and roasted pork with charred bitter greens and anchoÃ¯ade on baguette), a menu wholly different from that of dinnertime. Having asked to see the dinner menu, to whet my palate for a future evening visit, I saw clearly that the DNA of Le Gourmand is at the core of Marmite, though expressed with new personality. Which is coupled with quite a shift in venue, from a supremely subtle corner of Ballard to the bustling heart of Capitol Hill. It’s a very different style of place for Bruce to inhabit. But watching him bounce from orchestrating creations in the kitchen to visiting with guests in the dining room, he seems to have settled well into this new home.
Glancing at the dinner menu last week, I felt an extra tug of nostalgia when I noticed Nectarine and Shiso Soup listed. Not only a dish I remember from the Le Gourmand years, it’s a recipe I’d worked on for inclusion in the Best Places Seattle Cookbook that came out in 2001. At that time, I’d rarely–if ever–used shiso in my kitchen. Now I try to keep it in my garden, having recently (and belatedly) picked some up at the nursery.
With Bruce’s blessing, I’m sharing here the recipe as it appeared in that cookbook, with understanding that there are surely some variances to what he cooks up now. At least one being the drizzle of crÃ¨me fraÃ®che and slivered shiso to embellish before serving.
If you don’t have shiso at your fingertips, nor feel compelled to add it to your garden, it’s pretty regularly available at Asian markets — at least here in the Seattle area. A very unique flavor, it has; a member of the mint family but with a taste all its own. Worth hunting down.
Savory Nectarine and Shiso Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup coarsely chopped onion
1 large shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 Thai chile, cored and chopped
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
1 pound ripe nectarines, peeled, quartered and pitted
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh shiso leaves (about 15 leaves)
2 1/2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, shallot, garlic and chile and sauté until tender and aromatic, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the bay leaf and thyme. Add the nectarines, shiso and chicken stock and cook, covered, until the nectarines are soft, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on their ripeness.
Take the pan from the heat and let cool for a few minutes. Discard the bay leaf and thyme sprig and purée the soup with an immersion blender. (Alternatively, purée the soup, in batches, in a food processor or blender.) Strain the soup through a fine sieve set over a bowl, pressing to remove as much of the flavorful soup as possible, then return the soup to the saucepan.
Reheat the soup gently, then season to taste with salt and serve hot, or chill thoroughly to serve cold.
Makes 4 to 6 servings