The flavors of Provence can be found in this Soupe au Pistou. In the Provencal language, pistou means basil and the word has come to mean this soup as well. It is a summer soup utilizing all the the vegetables from the garden.
This authentic recipe came from Antoine Bouterin in his book Cooking Provence; Four Generations of Recipes and Tradition.
Bouterin, the former chef of Le Perigord in New York City, grew up in his Grandparent’s 400 year old farm house in St.- Remy-de-Provence. He learned how to cook watching his Grandmother turn out meals on her cast-iron, wood-burning stove surrounded by the aromas of drying herbs and citrus peel. Each summer she would make this soup from the bounty of the farm with a generous addition of garlic and basil.
I had expected to like this soup, but I found it to be more complex than just a liking. It has a depth of flavor to it that is soothing. It makes you want to return your spoon to your bowl over and over again. I am anxious to try it again when the tomatoes are at their peak. It will be a regular summer soup at the cottage.
PROVENCAL VEGETABLE SOUP (SOUPE AU PISTOU)
2 tablespoons corn or peanut oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 medium-size turnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
8 cups water
4 cups homemade or canned low-salt chicken broth
1 medium-size zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 cup green beans, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 large leeks, white and tender green parts, well washed and cut into 1/2-inch dice
4 medium-size potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice (I used Yukon Gold)
1 cup canned flageolets, undrained (or cannellini beans)
1 cup broken pieces thin spaghetti
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 large tomatoes, juice and seeds gently squeezed out and cut into 1/2-inch dice
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup shredded fresh basil
In a large pot over medium-high heat, heat the corn oil until very hot but not smoking, then add the onion and saute until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and turnips and saute 2 minutes. Add the water and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook 10 minutes. Add the zucchini, green beans, leeks, and potatoes and simmer 30 minutes.
Add the flageolets and spaghetti and cook 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
In a small bowl, combine the tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, parsley and basil and set aside. Just before serving the soup, add the tomato mixture and cook just until heated through. Serve the soup hot or at room temperature.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
Note: You can prepare the soup up to the point of adding the tomatoes and refrigerate up to 3 days. It will thicken in the refrigerator, so add a little water or broth as needed.