A native of France who grew up in the Montrouge suburb of Paris, Lionel Vatinet spent two years as an apprentice baker in the French guild of artisans, Les Campagnons du Devoir, and five more in the guild-sponsored Tour de France, traveling the country to work under the masters of his trade. After induction into the guild of Maitres Boulangers as a Master Baker, Valinet traveled the world, teaching and expanding his own knowledge, later becoming one of the founders of the renowned San Francisco Baking Institute. A how-to manual for artisan breadbaking, Vatinet's cookbook, "A Passion for Bread," shares the techniques and formulas he developed through all of these experiences, reinforced through step-by-step photography.

Vatinet's La Farm Bakery, located in Cary, N.C., now includes a cafe where one can feast on croque monsieur and madame, quiche and tartines, sandwiches and salads, soups and pastries. The shared recipe for avocado-cucumber soup comes from the cafe and was selected from the book because of the intricate instructional details of the bread recipes. Purchase the book and you will have the benefit of both. Little, Brown and Company. $35.

Note: Vatinet teaches an artisan bread class at Southern Seasons Cooking School in Mount Pleasant on June 24 at 6 p.m.

Avocado-Cucumber Soup

Serves 4


3 scallions (green parts only), sliced

3 ripe avocados, halved, pitted, and scooped out, divided

3 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, coarsely chopped, divided

2 1/2 cups buttermilk

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons seeded and finely diced jalapeno peppers

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 medium garlic clove, minced

1?2 teaspoon Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce

2 teaspoons fine sea salt

1?2 teaspoon ground cumin

1?4 teaspoon ground white pepper

1?4 cup plain, nonfat Greek-style yogurt for optional garnish


Combine the scallions, two of the avocados, two of the cucumbers, the buttermilk, and lemon juice in a large nonreactive bowl. Using a handheld immersion blender, begin to process the mixture into a puree. While still chunky, add the jalapeņos, cilantro, garlic and hot sauce and continue to blend. Then, add the salt, cumin and pepper and process until very smooth. (Alternatively, puree the soup, in batches, in a blender or food processor fitted with the metal blade.) Taste and, if necessary, adjust the seasoning with additional salt, pepper or hot sauce.

Ladle the soup into shallow soup bowls and garnish the center with a dollop of yogurt, if desired, and then add an equal portion of the remaining diced avocado and cucumber. Serve.

-Adapted from "A Passion for Bread"