Soup Au Pistou~A Fresh Vegetable Soup From Provence
First of all, this soup rocks! It’s great for a crowd, but perfect as dinner for 1 or 2. It’s also a great light meal for a party, because it leaves room to have lots of other delicious things on the side. Plus…you can make extra and freeze the leftovers for 2 weeks (or 2 months) from now when you don’t feel like cooking but still need something amazing to eat.
Soup Au Pistou is typically served in the spring or summer in France, but I have always loved it in the fall. It’s certainly hearty enough to eat any time of year, and as you may already know, I’m a rule breaker!
I created this version by researching a handful of recipes and bringing out the best of what I found.
A Few Suggestions:
1. Never Combine Pasta & Beans. No one needs that much starch. It bogs down your digestion, and it will only make you overly-full and tired. Same goes for pasta & potatoes, or beans & potatoes. Just…no.
2. If You Use Canned Tomatoes, Make Sure They Are BPA-Free. The canned tomato debacle has certainly been one of the toughest ‘food rules’ for me to follow. I never met a tomato I didn’t like, so you can imagine that only using fresh ones becomes a strain on both your wallet and your time. There are a few companies producing canned tomatoes without BPA in the liner: Pomi tomatoes in the tetra-pak & Muir Glen.
3. Use Dry Beans When Possible. Have you ever bought dried beans & made your own? You’ll be a convert as soon as you do. In addition to being quite a bit cheaper, buying dry beans and cooking them yourself gives you a few advantages that canned beans can’t offer. Not only can you control the sodium levels, adding less salt than you will find in the canned products, you will also get a lot more from your beans because canned food doesn’t have as much ‘qi’ as fresh food, or reconstituting dried foods. When you make them at home, I suggest cooking extra and freezing them in smaller portions.
For The Soup:
3-5 cups cooked Cannelini Beans (large white beans)
1 large Onion, chopped
1 medium head of Fennel, chopped
2-4 ribs Organic Celery, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced
3-5 Carrots, sliced or chopped into cubes
1 can, or 2 cups fresh, chopped Tomatoes with juice
2-3 Zucchini, chopped into cubes
2 cups Green Beans, cut in 1-1/2″ pieces
1 bundle fresh Chard
1 bundle fresh Thyme
Vegetable or Chicken stock
Olive Oil & 2 Tbs Butter
Salt & Pepper
For the Pesto:
Large box or bundle of Fresh Basil
1/2-3/4 cup Toasted Pine Nuts (Pignoli)
About 1/2-3/4 cup Olive Oil
5-8 cloves Garlic
Salt & Pepper
Sauté Onions, Fennel & Celery in 2 Tbs Butter mixed with 2 Tbs Olive Oil. Once the onions begin to look translucent, add the Minced Garlic and Carrots and sauté for another few minutes. Add White Beans, 1/4 cup of minced Thyme, chopped Tomatoes and enough broth to cover the ingredients by 3″, or so. I used 2 boxes of organic vegetable stock from Trader Joe’s. If you are using homemade stock, this will be about 10 cups. Remember that the beans will soak up a lot of the liquid, so you will need more than you think.
Bring this to a soft boil, then reduce heat to a simmer–small bubbles & steam, but not boiling. Add salt & pepper to your liking. Simmer until the carrots are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the Green Beans and continue to simmer until they are tender. Add Zucchini, simmering for about 3 more minutes, then add chopped Chard and turn off the heat. Cover the soup pot, and allow to rest for about 20 minutes.
In the Meantime, Make The Pesto:
Remove all Basil leaves from the stems and put into a blender or food processor. Add toasted Pine Nuts, salt & pepper, peeled Garlic Cloves and Olive Oil. Purée for 30 seconds to 1 minute. There is basically no such thing as ‘too much pesto’ in your house, so if basil is on sale, buy a lot. You can freeze the extra in ice cube trays, if you have any left–but you probably won’t.
Finishing The Soup:
Taste the soup and adjust salt, pepper & thyme levels to your preference. I usually like a lot of pepper & fresh herbs in my soups. Adding fresh herbs at the beginning AND the end is important, so make sure to save enough for the end. Add 1-2 Tbs of the fresh Pesto to the soup and stir.
Serve with 1 big dollop of the Pesto on top of each serving.
Let me know how it goes.