A classic French country vegetable soup loaded with fresh good for you veggies and finished off with an unforgettable nut free French pesto. Comfort food that is both healthy and hearty!
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Several times a year, I host public cooking classes. They always have a theme and they are always BYOB…which of course always guarantees a good time.
One of my favorite cooking classes was “Back to Basics”. It was the largest class I had and it just so happened to be on a very cold winter night in Chicago. The students ranged from 20 something girls who just wanted to learn how to hold a knife…all the way to a 60 year old Russian grandmother, (babushka) who was very set in her ways and was dragged there by her 30 something year old daughter as her birthday present. Needless to say, she was not a happy camper.
I decided on a super simple menu of the ultimate roasted chicken, perfectly golden potatoes and a classic French country vegetable soup with a pistou. Pistou is just the French term for a pesto. Basil, garlic, Parmesan, good olive oil, salt and pepper make the most incredible topping for this soup…or any soup for that matter. It’s ridiculously delicious and adds such a depth of flavor to this soup.
The babushka at the cooking class, was not having it. Let me tell you, she attempted to teach ME how to make the food I was teaching that night.
“My grandson, isn’t going to eat this soup…it has too many vegetables for him.” She proclaimed as she stirred the pot with the soup full of glorious winter root vegetables.
“Well, your daughter over there is convinced that you will be making it for her, so I guess at least she will eat it,” I attempted to giggle with her, but babushka was not having any of this. She smirked, and continued stirring even though I asked her to have some wine instead. A babushka has to do what she has to do.
Several bottles of wine and great stories later the large catering kitchen we were in was filled with laughter from all corners of the room and wonderful smells emanating from the stove. Even babushka had relaxed and was laughing along with all the girls. And because it was her birthday, we started our dinner off with singing a loud “Happy Birthday” and all kissed her on the cheek. And then I busted out the soup.
Babushka was impressed. I made her a cup of soup and she instantly fell in love with the earthy flavors and comforting broth. And then once I added in the pistou she was sold.
Everyone was amazed at how the soup had transformed just by adding a simple pistou. They all crowded around the stainless steel tables sipped their wines and dipped their crusty bread into the warm broth. It was a night that ended in smiles and full bellies. My perfect kind of night.
Provencal Vegetable Soup with PistouA classic French country vegetable soup loaded with fresh good for you veggies and finished off with an unforgettable nut free French pesto. Comfort food that is both healthy and hearty!
- For the soup:
- 2 quarts vegetable stock
- 1 onion chopped
- 4 garlic cloves minced or pressed
- A few sprigs each thyme and parsley a Parmesan rind and a bay leaf
- Salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 leeks white and light green part only, cleaned and sliced
- 1 pound 14-ounce can tomatoes with liquid
- 2 carrots diced
- 2 celery stalks diced
- 1 medium-size zucchini scrubbed and diced
- 1 medium-size turnips peeled and diced
- 1 medium-size parsnip peeled and sliced
- 1/2 pound green beans about 2 cups, trimmed and broken into 1-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup soup pasta such as macaroni or small shells
- Freshly ground pepper
- 2 large garlic cloves halved, green shoots removed
- 1 cup fresh basil
- Salt to taste
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan for sprinkling
- Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot, and add the chopped onion and a generous pinch of salt.
- Cook, stirring, until tender, about five minutes. Add the leeks and garlic.
- Stir together for a few minutes, and add the tomatoes. Cook, stirring, until the tomatoes have cooked down slightly and the mixture is fragrant, five to 10 minutes.
- Add all of the remaining vegetables except the green beans, and bring back to a simmer. Cover and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes to an hour. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
For the pistou
- To make the pistou, Combine all the ingredients in a food processor except the olive oil. With the machine running, stream in the olive oil.
- Add the pasta to the simmering soup about 10 minutes before serving, and cook until cooked al dente.
- Add the green beans about 5 minutes after the pasta.
- Add pepper, taste and adjust salt.
- Serve, adding a spoonful of pesto to each bowl for guests to stir in. Pass additional Parmesan for sprinkling.
- Serve with crostini for perfect dipping.