Saturday, October 29, 2011

vegan mofo :: soupe au pistou [pesto soup] and my favorite cookbook

Soupe au Pistou combines harvest veggies with the last of the summer's pesto.
"I'm dreaming of a white Halloween?"
It's October 29, and it's snowing in Philadelphia. Yes, snowing! Looking out my window onto the city streets is like peering into a gigantic snow globe. Picturesque, yes, but it's a bit jarring for mid-autumn, not to mention a plan buster [I was going to drive to Bucks County to spend the day with friends]. Still, snowstorm exile is the perfect excuse to putter around in the kitchen. Soupe Au Pistou is a Provençal vegetable soup, traditionally made during late summer/early fall. This hearty potage gets its name from a sweet, licorice-scented dollop of pesto that enhances the humble kaleidoscope of cooked harvest produce – sort of like an Hermès scarf dressing up jeans and a T-shirt. Traditionally, it's made with basil pesto, but you can use any kind of pesto you want. [See my previous post on 21 Pesto Ideas].

I adapted and simplified this recipe from one of my most beloved, most-used cookbooks, Recettes de Provençe. I bought it in a little shop in Antibes, France, many years ago for about $10, and its now dog-eared and batter-spattered – which only endears it to me more. Recettes de Provençe is not exactly a best-selling French cookbook. It's a regional recipe collection with few exact measurements, quirky directions, and vague cooking instructions that assume readers already know their way around la cuisine.  [Most French readers do, bien sûr.] In this soup recipe, for example, the author calls for "une petite poignée de macaronis," or "A small handful of macaroni." Now your idea of a small handful might be quite different than mine, but that's what I love the most about this coobook – the absence of ego. The assumption that the reader has a brain. The room for improvisation. The endless fields of lavender and sunflowers instead of an October Nor'easter...

Soupe Au Pistou

  • 1 cup dried beans, soaked overnight and rinsed [I used cannelini beans]
  • 2 cups green beans, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 potatoes, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1 or 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 10 cups vegetable stock, plus more if needed [I recommend Better Than Boullion brand]
  • 1 T dried thyme
  • 3 T dried parselyA handful of small pasta [I used orzo]
  • Sea salt and pepper, to taste
  • About a cup of your favorite pesto 
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for the gourmandes

Serves 8

Combine the beans, vegetables, bay leaf, and stock into a large soup pot. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer for several hours over a low flame, adding stock as needed. I simmered mine for about 2 hours. The longer it cooks, the more the flavors meld and the more "grandma-like" it will taste. [My grandmother used to simmer soup for hours over her coal stove.]

About 15 minutes before you serve the soup, toss in the herbs and pasta. Adjust the seasonings.

To serve, ladle into bowls and top each serving with a healthy dollop of pesto. Be sure to set a small pitcher of best-quality olive oil on the table for drizzling.


Anne said...

Celebrate Vegan arrived yesterday! I made the snow day scones today (I'm in the Lehigh Valley north of Philadelphia, so we're in the same snow system). I didn't have dates or soy flour, and those are two key ingredients, but they still turned out great! I haven't used soy flour before, that's new to me, I'll need to pick some up at a health food store. I love that you have so many international holidays in your book! Really fabulous recipes, looking forward to celebrating!

foodfeud said...

Looks magnifique! My friend and I were in Provence a few years ago and I remember an outdoor market with a vendor selling all kinds of pistou and such. I ALSO remember buying some really nice moutarde for my mother and having it confiscated at customs! Quel dommage.

urban vegan said...

Anne: I'm so glad you were able to "celebrate" the snow day with scones. Crazy weather, eh? I use soy flour as an egg replacer of sorts. It's not necessary but I think it gives baked goods some extra heft. Hope you like the book!
FoodFued: The moutarde....miam! I have a recipe for homemade in Urban Vegan. Making your own is truly addictive.

mamapasta said...

well, you are right.. I need to cook this French soup more often