November 6, 2010

Soupe Au Pistou

A hailstorm recently decimated most of what remained in our garden, including the last of our basil. Of course I didn't realize that until after I had come home from the farmer's market, laden with zucchini and potatoes and cavalo nero and carrots, promising to make the Vegetarian a nice soupe au pistou. (She loves pesto. She loves soup. Two great tastes and all that.)

The regular basil had been reduced to a few sorry, straggly strands, but there was still a little bit of thai basil  left. So I squelched traitorous thoughts of delicious thai drunken noodles redolent with spicy thai basil and picked all the basil that was left, thai or otherwise. I mean, I knew that motherhood meant sacrifice, but I didn't realize how much that sacrifice would extend into my kitchen. The last bowl of soup? It's yours. No onions in that sauce? Well, okay. No mushrooms ever, in anything? Hmm, I'll have to think on that. Take my firstborn instead. Oh wait, you are my firstborn. Never mind.

I figured that, topped off with parsley and mixed with loads of garlic and parmesan and swirled into soup, the anisey flavor of the thai basil wouldn't be so noticeable.

And you know what?

I was right.

This soupe au pistou is not particularly traditional, made up on the fly as it is and all. But it is in keeping with the spirit of these kinds of soups, which are all about turning the season's bounty into a bowl of steamy, delicious goodness.

I would also post about the super-delicious thing I did with the rest of that zucchini, but of course I forgot to take a picture of it. Fortunately, zucchini is still around, so maybe next time.

Soupe au Pisou
(makes about two quarts)

for the soup:
1 onion or leek, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled or scrubbed and cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 stick celery, cut into 1/4 inch dice
2 potaotes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into inch-long pieces
(I used 1/2 green, half yellow wax beans)
1/2 bunch cavalo nero (tuscan kale) or regular kale or any other green you like, cut into thin ribbons
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 cup cooked beans (I used canned chickpeas, but you could use anything, really, except perhaps black beans)
1 sprig thyme
olive oil ( or butter or bacon fat—your choice)
water or broth

for the pesto:
1/4 cup packed basil leaves
1/4 cup packed flat leaf parlsey
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup grated parmesan
olive oil

In a stockpot or large heavy saucepan, saute onion and celery with a quarter teaspoon salt (and a half teaspoon crushed red pepper, if you like) in oil until soft. Add remaining vegetables, beans, thyme, a 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cover with water or broth. (should be about 6 cups of liquid). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook, covered, until vegetables are tender. Salt and pepper to taste.

While soup is cooking, make pistou. In a blender or food processor, process basil, parsley, garlic, and cheese until the mixture is fairly smooth. With motor running, add olive oil a little at a time until a thin pesto-like consistency is reached.

Serve soup with a tablespoon of pistou swirled into each bowl. Pass extra grated parmesan, if you desire.