Friday, July 20, 2012

Update: Summer Minestrone With Basil Pistou

I most often think of cold soups in summer. But an abundance of zucchini, tomatoes and basil in the garden begs for a summer minestrone. This one is brightened with a sprinkling of green beans and a dollop of pistou, French pesto. Serves six or eight at room temperature or just warm. 


Summer Minestrone with Basil Pistou


Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 medium carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 pound zucchini, diced
6 ounces green beans
1 pound tomatoes, peeled, seeded, chopped (or a 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes with juice)
1-15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups water
1 cup vegetable stock
Bouquet garni - 1 bay leaf, 3 sprigs parsley, 3 sprigs thyme, Parmesan rind tied together or bundled into a piece of cheese cloth
1/2 cup soup pasta such as elbow macaroni or shells
Sea salt
Fresh basil
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup pistou (recipe below)
Freshly grated Parmesan to garnish

Preparation

1. Heat the olive oil to medium-low in a large, heavy soup pot. Saute' onion and garlic until they start to caramelize. Stir in carrots, celery and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Saute' until vegetables start to soften, about 10 minutes. Mix in tomatoes, continuing to stir-fry until the tomatoes have cooked down and smell fragrant. Add water, stock, zucchini, bouquet garni and bring to a simmer. Add salt to taste. Reduce heat to low and simmer 45 minutes. Stir in canned beans. Remove the garnish.

2. While the soup simmers, bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add the green beans, boiling five minutes until tender and bright green. Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Allow to cool, drain and set aside. Retain the cooking liquid in case you want to thin the soup.

3. Add the pasta to the soup, simmering until it is cooked al dente. Stir in the green beans. Add freshly ground pepper and adjust seasoning to taste. Soup should taste savory and rich.

Pistou

Make French pistou exactly like Italian pesto, omitting the pine nuts.

2 cups basil leaves
2 garlic cloves, blanched if desired
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, freshly grated (1/4 cup tightly packed)

1. Grind the leaves to paste in a mortar and pestle with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Set aside. Grind the garlic to a paste with salt in the mortar and pestle. When it's well smashed, mix in the ground pesto and slowly work together with the olive oil. When combined, stir in Parmesan.

(You can also make this in a food processor. But fresh chefs swear by the mortar-and-pestle method because it releases the oil in both the herb leaves and garlic. I did a bit of both. There's no shame in this game.)

To serve, stir pistou into the soup or place a spoonful in each bowl before ladling in soup. Serve in wide soup bowls with a sprinkling of Parmesan over the top.

Bon appetit!
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