Soupe au Pistou

This is France’s spring/summer equivalent of Italian Minestrone. Since the list of vegetables is long, just use what you have on hand, including a different bean and/or pasta. As summer vegetables become more prolific, you can use a variety of beans and squash.

1 small onion, chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

Vegetables – pick and choose based upon your availability:

2 leeks, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise, washed well, and drained

2 small celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 medium carrot, cut into small dice

1 small zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 small yellow squash, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 small tomatoes, chopped or ½ can (15oz) diced tomatoes

3 small red bliss potatoes, cut into ½-inch pieces

1 C fresh or frozen green beans, cut into ½ inch piece

1 C fresh or frozen peas

1 can (15oz.) small white beans, such as navy, rinsed and drained

5-6 C vegetable or chicken broth

1 Parmesan rind, about 1 by 3 inches

¼ cup small pasta, such as elbow, small shells, ditalini or stars (-optional)

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Pistou – if fresh herbs are not available, top the soup with a bit of fresh lemon zest

1 C lightly packed basil leaves (can substitute parsley or cilantro)

1-2 cloves garlic

1/3 C grated parmesan

¼ C olive oil

Soup: Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, leeks and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and golden in spots, about 10 minutes. 

Stir in zucchini, squash, tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, broth, and Parmesan rind. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in beans and simmer, covered, just until warmed through, about 2 minutes. Remove rind. 

Pistou: Pulse together the basil, garlic, Parmesan, and oil in a food processor to a loose paste. Season with sea salt and pepper.

Serve each bowl with a small dollop of pistou. Serves 6-8.

Asparagus Pesto with Pasta

photo veganyumyum

Power pesto from Danielle’s book Happily Hungry, available at Amazon. Substituting part or all of the spinach with basil, arugula, mint, chives or a combination adds a bright, spring-time flavor to the delicate asparagus base of this terrific pesto.

1 bunch asparagus spears (about 1 lb), trimmed of tough ends and halved crosswise
3 handfuls baby spinach leaves
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 C grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
1 C pine nuts, divided
1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for topping
Juice of ½  lemon
½ t fine-grain sea salt
pinch red pepper or to taste
8 oz dried pasta or 12 oz fresh – linguini, fettuccini

Bring 2 pots of water to a rolling boil, one large for the pasta and one medium sized for the asparagus. While the water is heating, put the pine nuts in a single layer in a large skillet. Heat on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and lightly browned. Remove pine nuts from pan and set aside. You will use 3/4 C of the pine nuts for the pesto paste and 1/4 C to mix in whole. Salt the asparagus water and drop the spears into the pan. Cook for only 2 or 3 minutes, until the spears are bright green and barely tender. Drain under cool water to stop the cooking. Cut the tips off, and set aside, several of the asparagus (diagonal cut about an inch from the end) to use for garnish. Add the asparagus, spinach, garlic, Parmesan, and 3/4 C pine nuts to a food processor. Purée and, with the motor running, drizzle in the 1/4 C of olive oil until a paste forms. If too thick, thin it with a bit of the pasta water. Add the lemon juice and salt, taste and adjust seasoning.

Salt the pasta water well and cook the pasta until just tender. Check the directions on the pasta package. You’ll need more time for dried pasta and less for fresh. Drain and toss immediately with 1 cup of the asparagus pesto. Serve sprinkled with the remaining 1/4 C toasted pine nuts, a dusting of Parmesan, and a light drizzle of olive oil.

Serves 4 to 6.

Power Pesto

A cup of chopped parsley provides 100 percent of your Vitamins A and C. It is a natural diuretic and thus aids in controlling high blood pressure. If you are on blood thinners or blood pressure medication, you should consult your medical professional before ingesting large amounts of parsley. Parsley also improves the function of potassium in the body. Garlic is high in potassium. Anchovies are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. This pesto is good on steamed vegetables, or as a topping to soups and stews.

Two bunches of fresh Italian or curled parsley, washed and trimmed of tough stems
1 t anchovy paste or two anchovies
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
pinch red pepper flakes
¼ C olive oil
1 T lemon juice

Process the parsley in a food processor until it is roughly chopped. Add garlic through pepper flakes and pulse in. Add olive oil and lemon juice; pulse until fully incorporated. The pesto can be rough or smooth, according to your preference. Makes ½ cup of pesto.