Vegetable Soup with Basil and Garlic
This simple and delicious vegetable soup is from the 1994 cookbook Backroad Bistros, Farmhouse Fare – A French Country Cookbook by Jane Sigal. Jane is a “journalist, author, editor, recipe developer and teacher” who lived in France for 12 years and went to culinary school at Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne. She has been a contributing editor at Food & Wine, the New York Times, Saveur, the Wall Street Journal, Fine Cooking and the list goes on.
Back in the 90’s when I lived in New York City with my wife Meg, I had the opportunity to cook with Jane at our downtown loft. If my memory is correct, Jane and I shopped for ingredients and then prepared an incredible Indian meal. I know I have photos of the night but they are not digital and stored away in some box I haven’t opened in years. I definitely need to get all my photos scanned.
Jane’s recipe is called Soupe Au Pistou or translated to Vegetable Soup with Basil and Garlic. Pistou is a “puree of fresh tomatoes, garlic, basil, Parmesan and olive oil. It’s sort of a French version of Italian pesto. Besides being used as a condiment for this classic French vegetable soup, I like to serve it with roast chicken, spread it on French bread or add a couple of spoonfuls to pasta as a quick and easy sauce.
I already have a recipe for pistou here so it’s not included in this recipe. You can make it ahead of time or while you are preparing the soup.
Soupe au Pistou - Vegetable Soup
1 cup dried white beans (or two 15 ounce cans)
1 branch fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
12 cups water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 leeks, white and light green parts only
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 rib celery, diced
1/2 pound zucchini, diced
1/2 pound green beans, cut into 3/8 inch pieces
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 cup small dried pasta
How To Prepare At Home
Prepping the Beans
If you are using dried beans, you need to soak them most of the day or overnight before starting this recipe. Once they have soaked for a minimum of 6 hours, drain them and put them in a large pot, cover with water and bring the water to a boil. Boil for about 5 minutes, drain, rinse and drain again.
Put them back into the pot and once again cover them with cold water along with the fresh thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer the beans, uncovered for 1 to 1-1/2 hours until tender.
Jane says to add 1 teaspoon of salt toward the end of the cooking process. Drain the beans one more time and reserve until you about to serve the soup.
If you are using canned beans, rinse them in a colander and reserve until ready to use.
Making the Soup
With 30 minutes left to the simmering of the beans, add 12 cups water to another large pot and bring to a boil. Add a little salt, the olive oil and all the diced vegetables and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.
15 minutes into cooking the vegetables, add the pasta and cook until soft. With just 5 minutes left to cooking the vegetables, add the reserved beans to heat up in the soup.
MEANWHILE - while the vegetables are cooking, make the pistou and reserve. The recipe for pistou is at http://www.reluctantgourmet.com/pistou-recipe/
Finishing and Serving
When the soup is done cooking, taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
Serve the soup in warmed bowls and either add a spoonful of pistou to each bowl or have it on the side and let your family and friends add the pistou themselves.
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