Once again, vegetarian dinner guests have challenged my culinary creativity. This time, rather than turning to the Moosewood or other veggie tome, I decided to cull a meatless dinner from a more classic source – Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. This Provencal vegetable bean soup has everything one could ask for in a meal. Add a sourdough baguette and a salad and it’s more than enough for dinner for eight.
Soupe au Pistou
3 quarts water
2 cups diced carrots
2 cups diced leeks
2 cups diced potatoes
(I also added about 1/2 bulb fennel, diced )
1 tbsp salt
2 cups canned white cannelloni beans, rinsed and drained.
1/3 cup broken spaghetti or vermicelli
2 cups diced green beans
1 slice stale white bread, processed in the food processor to make crumbs (I used a stale pita)
pinch of saffron (I used turmeric)
1/4 cup chopped parsley (my addition)
For the Pistou
4 cloves mashed garlic
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 t 1/2 cup fruit olive oil
4 tbsp tomato paste or 6 tbsp fresh tomato puree
I used 3/4 cup prepared pesto (without pine nuts) instead of the first 4 ingredients and just blended in the tomato paste by hand.
Add potatoes, leeks, and carrots to 3 qt cold water with 1 tbsp salt in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 40 minutes.
Twenty minutes before serving, so the green vegetables retain their freshness, add the beans, spaghetti or vermicelli, bread and seasoning to the simmering soup. Simmer another 15 minutes or until the green beans are just cooked. Correct seasonings.
Prepare the pistou while the soup is cooking. Blend garlic, tomato puree or paste, basil and cheese either by hand or in the food processor till smooth. Add the olive oil gradually. (If using prepared pesto, just blend in the tomato paste to the pesto). Place in the bottom of the soup tureen. When the soup is ready for serving, beat a cup gradually into the pistou. Pour in the rest of the soup. Serve with hot french bread or with hard-toasted bread rounds basted with olive oil
Makes 6-8 servings.