vegetable soup with basil and garlic

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Servs: 4   Prep:

<I>Soupe au Pistou</I><P> During Marion Cunningham&#8217;s last visit with Richard Olney, he made a version of this recipe, which comes from Simple French Food. As he made it, he told her that he thought the trick to cooking is tasting &#151; in the case of the soup that day, adding the right amount of salt and pepper, then cheese, then a little olive oil, and finally some macaroni. After making the soup in our own kitchens, following the recipe from the book (it's highly adaptable to seasonal produce or the contents of your larder), we can understand why this recipe is so loved among Olney&#8217;s fans. <P>Active time: 35 min Start to finish: 1 1/4 hr.

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  • add   1/4 teaspoon salt
  • add   1 lb fresh white beans in pods, shelled, or 1 1/2 cups drained cooked white beans
  • add   3/4 lb potatoes, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • add   2 medium leeks (white and pale-green parts only), thinly sliced crosswise
  • add   2 small zucchini (1/2 lb), cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • add   Bouquet <A HREF="/cooking/how_to/food_dictionary/entry?id=2685">garni</A> of 1 celery rib, 3 fresh parsley sprigs, 2 fresh thyme sprigs, and 1 bay leaf tied together with kitchen string
  • add   1 firm-ripe medium tomato, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
  • add   2 1/2 qt water
  • add   1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • add   Generous handful fresh basil leaves(preferably with blossoms)
  • add   3/4 lb butternut or other winter squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • add   2 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • add   1 to 11/4 cups olive oilSpecial equipment: kitchen string
  • add   4 large garlic cloves
  • add   <B>For soup</B>
  • add   1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • add   6 oz green beans, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
  • add   1 cup elbow macaroni<B>For <A HREF="/cooking/how_to/food_dictionary/entry?id=3993">pistou</A></B>


  1. Make soup:
  2. Bring water to a boil in a 5-quart pot and simmer leeks, onion, carrots, potatoes, squash, white beans (if using fresh), and bouquet garni 30 minutes, or until beans and squash are tender but remain intact. Add green beans, zucchini, and macaroni (and cooked white beans if using) and simmer 15 minutes, or until macaroni is tender but not falling apart.
  3. Make pistou while soup is cooking:
  4. Pound garlic, basil, salt, and pepper to taste with a large mortar and pestle, alternating between pounding and turning with a grinding motion, until mixture forms a paste. Work in enough Parmesan to make a very stiff paste, then add about one third of tomato, pounding and grinding into the paste. Gradually work in remaining cheese and tomato with a little olive oil until mixture is a barely fluid paste. Gradually work in 1 cup oil, or enough for pistou to become a sauce. (Pistou will not be an emulsion, so it should be thoroughly mixed each time it is dished out.)
  5. Serve soup with mortar of pistou on the side, to be added to taste by each person.
  6. Cooks' note:
  7. • If you don’t have a large mortar and pestle, finely chop basil and garlic and mash in a bowl with back of a spoon.

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