Hard to believe last Tuesday was the first day of Spring, with some parts of the country still getting pounded by record snowstorms. While I’m anxious for the arrival of warm spring days, I fully intend to savor the last of the cold weather with the help of few more pots of soup. With the temps hovering around the mid-40s I think spring flavors are in order so today I chose a soup au pistou. A French soup similar to minestrone, this recipe is brightened by the intense green flavors of fresh herbs pistou layered upon spring peas, string beans; and wintry reserves of savory root vegetables and legumes.
Originating in the southern French city of Nice which was until the mid-19th century part of Italy, the French version differs from Italian minestrone in that it is based on a light tomato broth in place of whole tomatoes and the garnish of pistou, which is quite similar to Italian pesto but typically lacks pine nuts and parsley in favor of even more basil.
Soup au Pistou
*Note* I like to prep all ingredients first before starting, in this case make the pistou first and chill.
For the soup
2 shallots, peeled and diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
3 medium or 4 small zucchini, diced
2 cups fresh haricot verts (or you can use frozen), trim ends
2 cloves garlic peeled and minced
1 14oz can of cannellini or navy beans, drained
2 cups water
3 cups vegetable stock
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
In a 4-6qt French oven or stockpot heat olive oil over medium flame and sauté shallots until soft and translucent. Add diced carrots, zucchini, green beans, garlic, fresh thyme, and salt/pepper, continue cooking until the vegetables begin to soften. Add tomato paste and gently incorporate so as to avoid breaking the green beans. Add cannellini beans, water, vegetable stock, frozen peas and bring to a simmer gently for 5-10 minutes or just until peas are cooked. Serve in a wide, shallow bowl with a spoonful of pistou swirled gently for presentation. If you enjoy it as much as I do, put a bowl of pistou in the middle of the table for late additions and serve with slices of warm baguette and sea salted butter.
For the pistou
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 bunch of fresh basil
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan or other hard cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Place garlic, basil, and parmesan cheese in a food processor and purée. While blending, gradually add the olive oil until combined. Chill until serving.
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