Tuesday, March 08, 2011

{Provençal Vegetable Soup}

The temperature outside strongly influences what I like to cook.

We got a taste of real winter -- snow and everything -- when we went home to Michigan
for a long weekend. Then, we traded our coats for a t-shirts when we got back to Arizona.
The weather here is perfect right now, but I'm aware the heat will waft in soon. So, I
decided now is the time to cook some body-warming meals.

I made a second and equally successful attempt at Julia Child's Provençal Vegetable Soup
or soupe au pistou -- pistou being pesto. I'm excited to share it with you today. The humble
ingredients for this soup (water, vegetables, beans, seasoning, and a handful of pasta) are
transformed into something amazing with a surprisingly complex and satisfying flavor.

A few notes and tips for making this:
* Beans -- I used pinto instead of great northern beans in this batch. They work equally
well and added some nice color.
* Pasta -- You can use almost any kind -- orzo, broken spaghetti or cute little curly ones.
* Potatoes -- I like fingerling or small red potatoes best for this soup. The skin gives extra
color and a more rustic look.
* Vegetables -- I doubled most of them and added an extra 2 cups of water to compensate.
Also, I didn't seed the tomatoes, and think fresh green beans make a huge difference here.
* Seasoning -- When you're adding salt towards the end, keep in mind that the final addition
of pesto and cheese really add a lot of flavor and depth.
* Time -- Cleaning and chopping all the vegetables the day before made a huge difference
the day of in active cooking time.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium sized onion, chopped
1 small leek, (white and tender green parts) cleaned and chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 large celery stalk, chopped
2 medium, ripe tomatoes, peeled seeded and chopped or one 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 small potato, cubed
a handful of small pasta, uncooked
1 small zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced
4 ounces of green beans cut into one inch pieces
1 15.5 oz can of Great Northern beans, rinsed well and drained
a pinch of Saffron threads (optional)
2/3 cup coarsely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 cloves of garlic
1 cup fresh basil (not packed)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

How to make it:
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the onion, leek, carrot, and celery.
Stir and cook 5-10 minutes or until the vegetables start to get tender but not brown.

Stir in the tomatoes, potato, 2 teaspoons salt, and 8 cups water. You can also add a
pinch of saffron threads if you like. Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until
the potatoes are tender, 20 - 30 minutes.

Add the beans, pasta, zucchini and green beans. Stir and allow it to simmer just until
the pasta is tender. Meanwhile, make the pesto. In a blender, puree the basil, garlic,
and 1/4 cup olive oil until smooth.

Remove the soup from the heat and immediately stir in the pesto along with the
Parmigiano Reggiano and a teaspoon of ground black pepper. Add more salt if needed.

Ladle into bowls to serve hot, at room temperature or cold. (I think the flavor comes
out so much more when this soup is warm instead of hot.) I served it with cheese crusts
(flat bread with shredded white cheddar melted under the broiler for a few minutes).

David's usually gives me a one line review of my kitchen creations. (He isn't one to waste
words.) It's often how I gauge if my cooking was a hit or a miss. His assessment? "This is
some good soup." Enough said.

Unfortunately I can't share our weather as easily as I can share a soup recipe. Temperature
highs are forecasted to be between mid 70's and mid 80's over the next week or two here.
I'll have to trade-in my soup laddle for a pool skimmer soon enough.

For more Tasty Tuesday ideas and recipes, click here.


Unknown said...

This looks so yummy! Can't wait to try it myself!

SplendidlyImperfect said...

This soup is so good! I've made it twice since you gave me the recipe. The first time, I didn't realize I wasn't supposed to pack the basil so my soup was super bright green! I should make this for next week's meatless monday.

Michelle @ On and Off My Plate said...

This is going on my meatless day(s) list! Thanks for sharing...can't wait to try it.

Kristi said...

This looks delicious! I love pesto, this would be right up my alley