Guest Recipe–Eileen’s Soupe au Pistou
I’m super excited today to share with you all Eating Appalachia’s first guest post!
Today’s recipe hails from Eileen of Ham Pie Sandwiches who writes a west coast food blog I became enthralled with several years ago. Over the years I’ve come to love Eileen’s simple, local, and Continental-inspired recipes. With a handful of fresh vegetables and a piece of fish, she’ll make a gorgeous Sole Meunière & Green Bean Almondine that will leave you hungry and wanting a picnic in the French countryside. And her vegan and vegetarian recipes are equally inspired–her Eggs Jeannette left G & I speechless with their simple richness, and who wouldn’t want this Lentils Vinaigrette?
So a few months ago when Eileen mentioned the idea of guest posting on each others blogs, I was instantly on board. It took awhile for us to get around to it (actually, I think I’m the stressed-out, always behind one for this project), but here we finally are. She’s cooked up a gorgeous Soupe au Pistou to share and I can’t wait to give it a whirl with my garden’s vegetables once they’re ready to harvest. And once you’re finished drooling over this soup, be sure to head over to Ham Pie Sandwiches for other awesome veg, vegan, and omni recipes with a fresh European twist!
Sometime in mid-July the vegetables start to explode. You go out to the garden one day and discover a rampant hedge of basil and ten pounds of green beans dangling from the vines. Or you pass by the produce section and realize all the tomatoes are suddenly $.99 a pound. Or you stroll through the farmer’s market to find stand after stand after stand practically giving their zucchini away.
Now is the time for soupe au pistou.
This French soup is perfect for that point in midsummer when you discover EVERYTHING is ripe and abundant and you need to eat it all right away. It’s a simple combination of seasonal vegetables, beans, and pasta, garnished with an intense pesto: beautiful, easy, and fresh.
Soupe au pistou is traditionally made with flageolet beans–thin kidney-shaped French beans of a delicate light green shade. While you can find these in the US, they’re frequently pretty expensive. Ordinary white, great northern, or navy beans will also work perfectly. And if you have fresh shelling beans available, why not give them a try?
Soupe au Pistou
1 Onion (yellow or white)
2 medium potatoes (red, white, or Yukon gold)
1 medium zucchini
Two big handfuls of green beans
2 cups cooked white or flageolet beans
3 cups water
A tiny amount of long thin pasta of your choice
3 cloves garlic
10 stems of basil
Gruyere or parmesan for garnish
If you are using dry beans, start them the day before you want to make this. Soak them overnight, boil them until just tender, and drain off the liquid. (Keep the resulting broth in your freezer for future bean soup action.) However, since it’s the dead of summer, you may want to use a can of beans instead. It’s up to you.
Start by sauteing a diced onion (or half an onion, if you have one of those huge softball-sized ones) with a slug of olive oil in a 3-quart soup pot on medium heat.
While the onion is coloring, skin and dice a couple of tomatoes. The easiest way to do this is by cutting a cross in the blossom end of each tomato and submerging them in boiling water for about a minute. When you fish them out of the water, the skin will have loosened and become super easy to just pull away. I actually just boiled water in the teapot and poured it over my tomatoes instead of putting on a full pan; this worked admirably.
Add your tomatoes to your softened onions, season with salt and pepper, and let cook, stirring occasionally. In the meantime, wash up your potatoes, zucchini, and green beans. Dice your potato and zucchini into ½-inch cubes and cut your green beans into inch-long pieces.
When your tomatoes have melted, add 3 cups of water to your pot. Bring it to a boil, and then add all your chopped vegetables and your beans. Simmer together for about ten minutes.
Next, add your pasta, broken into pieces about 2 inches long. Spaghetti, linguine, vermicelli, angel hair, or even fideos will work perfectly here. I used a sheaf of whole wheat spaghetti about ¾ inch in diameter. Since you need so little pasta, this is a good time to use up odds and ends. If you have a bunch of broken bits of spaghetti at the bottom of a jar, throw them in–they’re the ideal choice.
Continue to simmer your soup until your pasta is done. While it’s cooking, make up a batch of simple garlicky pesto. Combine 3 cloves of crushed garlic with the leaves of 10 stems of basil; then add drizzles of olive oil, bit by bit, until the pesto comes together into your consistency of choice. This is easiest in a food processor, but you can also use a mortar and pestle. Or you can do what I did and make knife pesto on the cutting board. It’s all good.
When your soup is done, taste and correct the seasonings. You may want to leave it a bit undersalted if you’re planning to eat your soup with cheese (and if you eat cheese, you should).
You can serve your soupe au pistou in a couple different ways. First, you can take your pot off the heat and just stir in your entire batch of pesto before serving. You can also serve bowls of soup and use the pesto as a lavish garnish on each one. I prefer the second method because it not only allows each diner more control, but also lets you reheat leftovers without cooking the basil. In either case, when the pesto hits the hot soup, the basil and garlic release the most amazing, intense, herby aroma. It’s pretty magnificent.
Eat, sprinkling each bowl with grated parmesan or gruyere cheese if you like. If not, no problem–the pesto is garnish enough.
Serves four with an entree, or makes a full dinner for two hearty appetites.