Pistou soup

When visiting the lovely R Brooks in Memphis, we went to a cafe where I experienced soup au pistou for the first time! I knew I had to try it at home, so I turned to this recipe from Eric Ripert. FYI: Pistou is a Provencal sauce made from garlic, basil, and olive oil (essentially a pesto without pine nuts).

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  • ¾ cup dried cannellini beans, rinsed and soaked overnight
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1 thick slice Virginia ham or prosciutto
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 2 sprigs parsley
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup small diced carrot
  • ½ pound green beans, cut to ½-inch pieces
  • 1 cup small diced zucchini
  • 2 tomatoes, cored, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 loaf rustic bread

Drain and transfer the soaked beans to a medium pot. Cover the beans with chicken stock and about 2 cups of water and add the slice of ham. Place the thyme and parsley sprigs on a piece of cheesecloth along with the peppercorns and bay leaf. Gather the corners to make a sachet and secure with kitchen twine. Add the sachet to the beans and bring the beans to a boil over medium high heat; lower heat and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes.

While I think this step is wonderful and should be done to develop flavor, I didn’t have time on a weeknight. Therefore, I skipped to the next step. I cooked the bacon (I used two slices of bacon instead of ham or prosciutto, based on what I had), browned the vegetables, then added the broth. Once the soup was warm, I added a can of cannellini beans that I had drained and rinsed. You don’t want to add the beans too early if they’re from a can because they’ll lose their texture. Also, if like me you have no cheesecloth to make a herb satchet, just add the whole springs of the herbs, and just remove the hard stems before eating.    

When the beans are tender, add the onion and carrots to the beans and continue simmering until the carrots are tender, about 10 minutes. Then add the green beans, zucchini and tomatoes and continue cooking the soup for another 10 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, place the garlic and basil leaves in a small food processor or a blender and puree with olive oil until a smooth paste forms. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper, ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the basil puree. Serve immediately with crusty bread.

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