French Country Vegetable Soup & Basil Pistou
This soup is one of my favourites. Filling enough for supper, it’s a rustic, chunky soup based on a Provençal dish, soupe au pistou. Since you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand, it’s a terrific soup to help clear out the fridge and it’s never the same twice. Here, I’ve used canned tomatoes and white beans for convenience, but I like to use fresh tomatoes in season and cook dried beans ahead if time allows. Sometimes I simmer a chunk of peameal bacon with the vegetables; other times I toss in a rind of Parmesan cheese to add body and depth of flavour to the broth. Serve with Basil Pistou and warm, crusty bread. Pistou is the French version of pesto; if you’re pressed for time, a good store-bought pesto could substitute.
- Serves: 6-8 (Basil Pistou makes about 1 cup/250 ml)
- Course: Dinner
French Country Vegetable Soup
- 2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 6 cups (1.5 L) mixed diced vegetables (such as leeks, carrots, potatoes, green beans, and zucchini)
- 1 can (14 oz/398 ml) plum tomatoes with juice, diced
- 1 bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, 3 sprigs parsley, 2 sprigs thyme, and a few celery leaves, tied together with kitchen string)
- Kosher or sea salt
- 1 can (19 oz/540 ml) white beans, rinsed and drained
- Freshly ground pepper
- Basil Pistou
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 tsp (2 ml) kosher or sea salt
- 1 cup (250 ml) fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
- 1⁄8 tsp (0.5 ml) freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1/2-3/4 cup (125-175 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- French Country Vegetable Soup In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, plus any vegetables that require a longer cooking time, such as leeks, carrots, and potatoes. Sauté for 4–5 minutes. Add tomatoes, enough water to cover vegetables, bouquet garni, and 1/2 tsp (2 ml) salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, and cook until vegetables are almost tender, about 35 minutes.
- Add tender vegetables (such as green beans or zucchini) and white beans. Simmer for about 15 minutes more. Remove bouquet garni and season soup to taste.
- Serve soup in warm bowls. Serve Basil Pistou alongside so that each person can swirl in a spoonful or two.
- Basil Pistou
- Using a mortar and pestle, or a food processor, mash garlic with salt, basil, and pepper. Remove to a bowl and mix in cheese. Gradually drizzle in oil, mixing in just enough to make a smooth, thick sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning.