Patricia's Pistou Soup
The hearty Provencal soupe au pistou, or "pistou soup", is often the first thing that chef and cooking instructor Patricia Wells has her students prepare, since it serves as a wonderful introduction to the rustic, fresh flavors of the South of France.
- Small handful bay leaves
- Small handful thyme sprigs
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and halved lengthwise and 10 cloves, peeled and quartered lengthwise
- Sea salt, to taste
- 1 pound fresh small white (navy) beans in the pod, shelled, or 8 ounces dried small white beans, soaked in boiling water for 1 hour
- 1 pound fresh cranberry beans in the pod, shelled, or 8 ounces dried cranberry beans, soaked in boiling water for 1 hour
- 3 medium leeks, white and tender green parts only, scrubbed, quartered, and finely sliced
- 8 medium carrots, scrubbed, quartered lengthwise, and sliced
- 2 medium onions, halved and cut into thin rings
- 1 pound potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 12 ounces zucchini, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
- 12 ounces tomatoes, cored, peeled, seeded, and chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 pound green beans, trimmed at both ends and quartered
- 3 quarts cold water
- 1 cup very fine pasta, such as angel hair or orzo
- Patricia's Pistou
- 1 cup (4 ounces) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1 cup (4 ounces) freshly grated imported Gruyere cheese
Prepare a bouquet garni: Place bay and thyme leaves in a square of cheesecloth, and tie securely with cotton twine. In a large, heavy-bottomed 10-quart stockpot, combine the olive oil, 3 halved garlic cloves, bouquet garni, and salt. Stir to coat with the oil and cook over moderate heat until the garlic is fragrant and soft, about 2 minutes. Add the navy and cranberry beans, and stir to coat. Cook for 1 minute more.
Add leeks, carrots, onions, potatoes, and quartered garlic cloves, and cook until softened over moderate heat, stirring regularly, for about 10 minutes. This will give a lovely color and rich flavor to the soup.
Add zucchini, tomatoes, tomato paste, green beans, 3 quarts cold water, and salt to taste. Simmer gently, uncovered, until the navy and cranberry beans are tender, about 30 minutes (cooking time will vary according to the freshness of the beans). Add additional water if the soup becomes too thick.
Add pasta, and stir frequently to keep the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pot, simmering until the pasta is cooked, about 5 minutes more. Taste for seasoning. Remove and discard the bouquet garni. Serve the soup very hot, passing the pistou and cheese to swirl into the soup.