Vegetable soup can be exciting; this recipe is the proof. It can be more than comfort food. This vegetable soup has such depth of flavor that even meat eaters, would be satisfied without the benefit of meat. I’ve made variations of the vegetable soup all the time. Time when excess vegetables hidden in the bottom drawer in the fridge are pulled out and made into a soup. But this soup has got to be the best in its class.
If I have to venture to explain why this soup is so good, two ingredients stand out for doing the heavy lifting: the Great Northern beans and the fresh basil pistou.
This recipe comes from My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz. Whatever vegetables that are in season are fair game for a vegetable soup. I followed the recipe closely as written. Gathered the suggested carrots, zucchini, frozen peas, since I always have them on hand.
First soak half a bag (200g) of dried Great Northern beans overnight. I cooked them the next day in a large Dutch oven with a few bay leaves for about an hour, or until tender. Hard to believe that’s most of cooking time you need to make a soup with such a deep and complex flavor. You don’t need hours to develop the flavor. Amazing!
Next go the diced onion, minced garlic and the vegetables. Add them in the pot of beans and simmer briefly, for about 10-20 minutes. The recipe calls for three quarters of a cup of small dried pasta in the soup. I used some whole wheat elbows. They could be left out, in my opinion. I don’t think they added much to the taste or texture of the soup. On the other hand, the Great Northern beans are one of the most valuable players. They thicken the soup and give it the desired body and creaminess.
Pistou is the French version of the Italian pesto without the nuts. The ingredients include a copious amount of fresh basil leaves (100g), garlic clove, olive oil (45ml) and grated Parmesan cheese (90g). Mash and pound them into a soft smooth paste. One small tomato, peeled and seeded, went in at the end to loosen up the basil puree. I used both the green and purple basil since the purple basil has been growing gangbuster in my garden. They tasted and smelled about the same. I could have doubled the pistou recipe and would still not have enough. The basil pistou says “summer fresh” and “alive” to me.
I couldn’t wait to make this soup again. Meanwhile, check out what our friends at Cook-the-Book-Fridays think about this recipe.
The leftover soup from the bottom of the pot was equally wonderful the day after – thicker and no less flavorful.