Tuesday, December 6, 2016

And With Our Stock, We Make Soup: Provençal Vegetable Soup with Garlic-Basil Pesto

With our great homemade stock and the cold weather over our area, we're motivated to make soup, both to warm up the kitchen and to warm up our insides.  We have previously made some favorites: Minestrone and Italian Wedding Soup, but today we're inspired to make a soup that we saw in Saveur recently, Soupe au Pistou (Provençal Vegetable Soup with Garlic-Basil Pesto).

Pistou is a Provençal version of Pesto and is added to the fabulous vegetable soup just before serving. This soup will be fun to make as we get to make pesto, chop lots of vegetables, use our stock that we made from the Thanksgiving turkey carcass last week, and end up with a thick mixture of vegetables, complemented by the pistou/pesto.

This soup involves a lot of preparation, mostly chopping, and we start early.

First, we make the pistou/pesto, starting with 4 packed cups of basil (our basil plants are down for the winter and we use 4 packages of basil from the grocery store).  Previously, we've ground up the basil in a stone mortar and pestle, this time we'll skip the arm exercise and use a blender.  We grind the basil with a cup of parmesan-reggiano cheese, several cloves of garlic, 2 cored plum tomatoes, a teaspoon of kosher salt and one-quarter cup of olive oil.  Once smooth and finely ground, we taste the pesto/pistou paste, season with a little salt and pepper, and set aside in the refrigerator while we start chopping.

 Ingredients for the pesto/pistou

In the blender, finely ground pesto/pistou paste

For the soup, we dice one-quarter pound of pancetta (removing most of the fat first) and cook it in one-quarter cup of olive oil until browned and any remaining fat has rendered.

Meanwhile, we chop away (we could use the food processor for chopping, as we did for the pesto/pistou, but for vegetable preparation, chopping with a chef's knife is therapeutic, but stressful for Laura to watch, especially after I chopped open the end of my thumb (beware of carrots, they are hard to mince) a year ago):

  5 cloves of garlic
  3 carrots
  3 celery stalks
  1 onion
  1 zucchini
  1/2 head of Savoy cabbage (cored and thin sliced, discarding larger pieces)

Also staging:
  28 oz (794 gram) can of San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
  15 oz can of cannellini beans, washed and rinsed
  1 cup of broken dry spaghetti

 Raw materials

Work in process (chopped and crushed, as appropriate)

Well, that took over an hour!  Now, time to assemble and cook.  To the browned pancetta, we add the garlic, carrots, celery, and onion, cooking until crisp and tender, about 15 minutes.  We then add the zuccnini and Savoy cabbage, cover, and cook until the cabbage is wilted, about another 5 minutes.  In goes the stock and tomatoes and we bring the mixture to a boil, add the pasta, and cook a few minutes until al dente.  Last of all, we add the beans (half mashed with a fork, half whole beans) and cook it all another minute or two.  Then, taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

The house smells incredible and the great smell lingers for a day or two to remind us of this culinary adventure.

 Start with vegetables, tomatoes and stock next

Done, with pasta and beans added

Serve in [warmed] bowls, with the pesto/pistou splashed on top.

 Served, gone quickly!

This soup takes some work, but it is worth it!  The complementary and contrasting tastes are incredible!  Do it (and we will do it again soon, maybe next week)!  This is our new favorite soup.

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