Soupe au Pistou
By Chef John Ash
Here’s my version of that wonderful soup from Provence in France. There are all kinds of variations on this but usually it includes both dried and fresh beans, tiny pasta, root vegetables, and other fresh vegetables available. The secret ingredient is a piece of Parmesan cheese rind to simmer along with the broth. It adds great flavor. Remove it at serving time and reuse it till it’s gone. Store the rind wrapped in the fridge. If you don’t have any rind the soup will still be delicious.
Difficulty Level Easy
4 tbs olive oil
2 C chopped onions
2 C leeks, including white and tender green parts cut into rings
4 large cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
1 large red or white boiling potato, scrubbed and diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 large bay leaves
1 tsp fennel seed
2 tsp whole dry thyme
2 qts chicken or vegetable stock or water
3 or 4-inch chunk of Parmesan rind, optional
1-1/2 C seeded and diced fresh tomatoes or canned petite diced tomatoes
1/2 C small dry pasta such as riso
2 C cooked dry bean of your choice such as Gigande, navy, or garbanzo (if using, canned rinse before adding)
2 C fresh green beans or zucchini cut in 1/2 inch pieces
Basic basil pesto
3 C fresh basil leaves (firmly packed)
2 tbs chopped poached or toasted garlic
3 tbs lightly toasted and chopped pine nuts or almonds (preferably blanched or skinned)
1/3 C olive oil
1/3 C freshly grated parmesan or asiago cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat the olive oil in a deep soup pot over moderate heat and add the onions, leeks, garlic, potatoes and carrots. Sauté and stir for 3 or 4 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften and just begin to brown. Add the bay leaf, fennel seed, thyme, stock, Parmesan rind if using, tomatoes and pasta to the pot and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and slowly simmer for 8 - 10 minutes or until vegetables are almost tender. Add cooked dried beans, green beans and simmer a few minutes more or until all are tender to your taste. Remove rind (eat it!) and bay leaf and season to your taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into warm bowls and swirl in a heaping tablespoon or so of basil pesto and serve immediately.
Basic Basil Pesto or Pistou Makes about one cup. Plunge basil leaves into a pan of boiling water for 5-10 seconds. Immediately drain and plunge into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and set the bright green color. Drain and squeeze out all the water that you can.
Chop the basil coarsely and add to a food processor or blender along with the garlic, nuts and oil and purée. Transfer to a bowl and stir in cheese. Correct seasoning with salt and pepper. Store covered in refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze up to 3 months.