Traditionally made from cow’s milk, fromage blanc is a soft, fresh cheese with a sweet-sour flavor. The French sometimes sprinkle it with sugar for dessert, but it can also be used as a base for spreads, stirred into pan juices to make a sauce, or used to thicken and flavor soups, as done here.
Remove the leaves from the basil stems, reserving about 40 of the smallest leaves for garnish. Coarsely chop the remaining basil leaves and set aside.
In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté until limp, 2–3 minutes. Add the potatoes and stir several times. Add the chopped basil and the broth, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Purée the soup with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender. Reheat just until steaming, then stir in the fromage blanc and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
Ladle the soup into warmed bowls, and garnish with the reserved basil leaves and the tomatoes. Serve at once.
© 2013 All rights reserved. Published by Weldon Owen.