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Early Spring Soupe au Pistou

(recipe, Caroline Lewis)


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Introduction

Here’s my very early spring soupe au pistou recipe, a tonic for this time of year and a reminder of those summer days to come. (I’ll publish a summer recipe as well when the time is right.) If you don’t happen to have pesto stashed in your freezer, you can purchase it for now. But please do find a sunny spot in your vegetable or flower garden, or in a couple of large pots, to grow your own basil this year. By next March — if not a whole lot sooner — you’ll be thankful you did.

Ingredients

  1. 4 Tbsp. olive oil
  2. 3 medium leeks, dark green parts trimmed and discarded, light green and white parts thoroughly washed and cut into ¼-inch slices
  3. Kosher salt
  4. 6 garlic cloves, minced
  5. 8 cups homemade chicken stock (or water; avoid canned chicken broth)
  6. 1 15.0 oz. can Roma tomatoes, drained and chopped
  7. 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
  8. 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  9. 1 bay leaf
  10. 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
  11. 1 medium turnip, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
  12. 2 stalks celery, cut into ½-inch dice
  13. 1 cup cooked and drained flageolet or cannellini beans
  14. ½ bunch of white or red Swiss chard
  15. ½ cup Israeli couscous, acini di pepe, or orzo pasta
  16. About ½ cup pesto (see recipe in my Verdura recipes box)

Steps

  1. In a large heavy pot, heat the olive oil over medium and add the leeks and a generous pinch of salt. Stir, cover the pot, and lower the heat to medium-low. Cook the leeks gently without browning, stirring occasionally, until they are limp and tender. Increase the heat to high, add the garlic, and sauté, stirring, one minute. Then add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer.
  2. Add the tomatoes, herbs, carrots, turnips, celery and beans, and bring back to a boil. Simmer until the vegetables are just tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, cut the ribs out of the chard leaves and set aside. Cut the larger leaf pieces in half or quarters lengthwise, stack eight or ten leaves, and cut into ¼" slivers crosswise. Make sure they’re not too long – no one wants long strands of anything hanging off his soup spoon! Continue until all the chard is sliced, then add it to the soup pot. Add the pasta, stir, and simmer the mixture until the chard is tender and the pasta is cooked, about 15 minutes.
  4. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls. Add a dollop of pesto to each bowl, swirling it in, and serve.
  5. Serving note: Crostini spread with goat cheese make a wonderful accompaniment.

Note

Feel free to substitute types of greens, types of beans, and other root vegetables as supplies — and your whim — dictate. In the photo above, we used kale, cranberry beans, and a rutabaga instead of the chard, beans, and turnip.