Soupe au Pistou

This is a start of another season where you hear a lot of people getting colds.  Even from few weeks ago I have been hearing and seeing advertisements about flu shots at the doctors’ offices and area pharmacies.  I have been under the weather for close to  2 weeks now.  Now that I think about it, I think it’s seasonal allergy.  The weather has been getting cooler (which I love!), and with all these sniffling and coughing going on, I wanted to make some soup.  I have plenty of soup recipes, from the traditional chicken soup to various Korean soup recipes, but I wanted something fresh tasting.  Well, I found this Provencal soup, Soupe au Pistou (soup with plenty of vegetables with pesto) and it sounded pretty darn good (and simple to make).  I have adapted this recipe from Mark Bittman and Wolfgang Puck.  According to Bittman he says that “This recipe is eminently flexible.  The zucchini and tomatoes, though not absolutely essential, are Provencal classics, but you can use whatever vegetables you can find as long as you finish the thing with basil.  That’s what makes it soupe au pistou.”

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1 cup of beans (either fresh or from can – I used Cannellini)
4 Tablespoons olive oil
3 medium leeks, dark green parts trimmed and discarded, light green and white parts thoroughly washed and cut into 1/2 inch dice
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, trimmed and chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped (I used sweet potatoes)
8 cups chicken stock (I used 4 cups chicken and 4 cups water, you can use vegetable stock also)
salt
1 teaspoon whole peppercorn
4 small sprigs fresh thyme
4 small sprigs fresh parsley
2 small to medium zucchini, trimmed and chopped
12 green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 tomatoes, cored, peeled, seeded and chopped

Pistou:
6 medium cloves of garlic, peeled
6 ripe tomatoes, cored, peeled, and seeded
4-6 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
30 fresh basil leaves, washed and dried

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and sauté just until they start to turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté about 1 minute more. Add the carrots, potatoes and celery and continue sautéing until the vegetables deepen in color but have not yet begun to brown, 3 to 4 minutes more. Pour the stock into the pan, bring it to a boil, and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Sprinkle in a generous pinch of salt.

Tie the peppercorns, thyme, and parsley in a square of cheesecloth, securing it with kitchen string. Add this bouquet garni to the pan. Stir in the beans, zucchini, and tomatoes. Continue simmering until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.  Add in the beans (from can) and simmer additional 10 more minutes.  **If you’re using fresh beans, you will have to soak the beans overnight and cook the beans separately and then add the beans to the soup while it’s simmering.

Meanwhile, make the Pistou: Put the garlic and tomatoes in a blender or food processor with about 3 tablespoons 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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My opinion:  I know few power soup recipes, but this definitely will be included in the list!!  What I mean by power soup is the whole medicinal quality.  When one hears that certain food is “medicinal” for some reason we think it won’t taste good, but I think it’s quite the opposite!  This soup is filled with all sorts of nutrients from various vegetables and the pesto adds such a heavenly touch to this soup!

As I kept on smelling this wonderful aroma of vegetables and herbs, I couldn’t help but desperately wishing I was in Provence!! Needless to say my whole family loved this soup!!  The recipe itself seems long, but take my word, it’s really simple!!!

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