soupe au pistou

I’m a huge fan of soup.  Honestly, I’d make soup a few times a week if I could get away with it; big, hearty soups packing great punches of flavor, served with steamy, crusty bread, and good wine!  But I can’t get away with it.  So, I appease myself with once every couple of weeks.  With the weather warming up, I’ll probably start to cut that back even further and just start a mental countdown to November…or, December.

This particular soup caught my eye because, while it’s technically a vegetable/minestrone soup (albeit French), it seemed really hearty; lots of veggies, some pasta, and beans.  So, I whipped it together (not quite that fast), sampling as I went along.  Every time I sampled it, I thought, “Bland, bland, bland.”  I was really, really disappointed.  So when I ladled it out, I did so with a caveat: This isn’t my best effort.  It was truly garden-variety average.

And then I added the pesto (pistou), grated in some cheese, and the whole soup changed.  It went from ho-hum and mundane to Ooh La La in a twirl of the spoon.  Wow!  Delicious!  Bold!  Hearty!  All those things I was hoping this soup would be.  The pesto and cheese is really the crowning glory.

The recipe below is a variation of one I found at Epicurious.  I’d looked at any number of recipes (101 Cookbooks, David Leibovitz, Ina Garten, etc)., and they’re all remarkably similar with only subtle, cook-inspired differences.  Most, if not all, call for using water instead of chicken stock.  Hence, the really bland flavor in my first attempt.  This time I used chicken stock which, arguably, means it’s not authentic Soupe au Pistou, but tough et vous!  I like it better with stock!  I think you will, too. Enjoy!

 

Soupe au Pistou

Ingredients:

  • 1 celery rib, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large carrot, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 large thyme sprig
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup dried cannelloni beans, rinsed and soaked
  • 1/2 pound Swiss chard, stems cut into 1/2-inch pieces and leaves coarsely chopped
  • 8 cups water or low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 cup thawed frozen edamame (fresh soybeans)
  • 1/2 pound zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup medium pasta shells

Directions:

  1. Cook celery, carrot, garlic, and thyme sprig in oil with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a 5-to 6-quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables brown and stick to bottom of pot, 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Add potatoes and chard stems with 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add water and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up brown bits.
  3. Stir in edamame, zucchini, green beans, pasta, chard leaves, and 1/4 tsp salt and simmer, uncovered, until pasta is al dente and vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Discard thyme sprig.
  4. Divide among four bowls and top with the pistou.

Pistou:

  • 3 medium garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 ripe tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, washed and dried

Put the garlic and tomato in a blender or food processor with about 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Begin processing. With the machine running, add the basil leaves, and then pour in enough extra-virgin olive oil to make a smooth, thick, but fluid paste. Transfer about 2/3 of the paste into a serving bowl to pass alongside the soup.

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