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French bistros are becoming increasingly popular in Austin and other cities across Texas. But if you can’t make it out—or if you just want to try your hand at something new at home—here are some France-inspired recipes from Cooking with Texas Highways, which was published by University of Texas Press in 2005.

The nearly ubiquitous sopa de tortilla, or tortilla soup, now refers to almost any brothy concoction that is garnished with crispy tortilla strips, chiles, and cheese. Most restaurant cooks use fruity, dried ancho chiles, but some cooks add an extra dimension with the dark pasilla chile.

Mexico has an extensive repertoire of seafood soups, and some of them have also found their way on to Texas menus.

A corn-bisque flavored with mild poblano chiles--this exquisitely rich dish manages to be sophisticated and earthy at the same time.

Rich and lush, with an underlying zing, this colorful soup suggests guacamole you’re actually allowed to eat with a spoon. Look for it on the menu at San Antonio’s Paloma Blanca.

 

Jimmy Mitchell, executive chef at Houston's Rainbow Lodge (#1 Birdcall, 713/861-8666), maintains a garden only steps from the restaurant's kitchen. This is his recipe for delicious, calorie-wise tomato soup.

A medley of mushrooms adds distinction to an old standby. We used whites, creminis, lobsters, and shiitake, but other varieties will work, too.

A favorite Jewish dish, Matzo Ball Soup is traditionally served at Passover. Plan to make the matzo balls while the chicken broth simmers.

Adapted from a recipe that appears in The Melting Pot: Ethnic Cuisine in Texas, this soup originally depended on fresh vegetables grown in the garden. Other varieties of peas - crowder, cream, or black-eyed - may be substituted for the purple hull peas.

Gazpacho is a popular Spanish cold soup. It can serve as an appetizer, a liquid "salad," or a meal in itself.

1993 Fall Food Festival at Peaceable Kingdom School proved especially popular, though all have earned plaudits for Zenaida Alejandro, the school's food and beverage manager. Zenaida credits her mother, Martina, the school's head gardener, for the Cactus Shrimp Soup recipe. For the Rose Petal Pound Cake, the school's extensive rose garden yields the petals. Festival-goers also enjoyed Zenaida's way with such dishes as Day Lily Soup, Wild Greens Salad with Edible Flowers, Yaupon Coffee, Pickled Purslane, Herb Bread, Herbal Iced Tea, and Cilantro Pesto.

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