Look for the smallest, most tender vegetables available. Other vegetables can be substituted to suit your taste or the season. Large pattypan squashes make beautiful soup bowls for the minestrone.
- 1/2 cup dried flageolets, rinsed and picked over; discard cracked ones
- 2 medium onions
- 1 head garlic, cut in half
- One 3/4-ounce bunch marjoram
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
- 2 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling (optional)
- 1 large clove garlic, peeled
- 1/2 large, or 1 small, bulb fennel, thinly sliced and chopped
- 3 thin carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch-thick circles
- 1 1/2 quarts Homemade Chicken Stock, or canned low-sodium chicken broth, skimmed of fat
- 1 medium Yukon gold potato, or any other starchy cooking potato, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 large beefsteak tomatoes, blanched, peeled, and coarsely chopped
- 1 ear corn, kernels removed
- 1 to 2 young small zucchini, quartered and cut into 1/3-inch-thick quarter moons
- 1/4 pound mixed fresh green beans, such as wax beans, string beans, and haricots verts, sliced into 1-inch pieces
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
- Basil Puree, optional
Place flageolets in large saucepan; cover with 2 inches cold water. Slice 1 onion in half; add to pot. Add garlic head. Reserve 2 tablespoons marjoram leaves. Make cheesecloth sachet with remaining marjoram, bay leaf, and peppercorns, add to pot, and set over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until beans are tender, about 45 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt 10 minutes before beans finish cooking. Remove from heat, and let stand in liquid to cool. Drain beans, reserve 1 cup liquid, and discard onion, garlic, and marjoram.
On each pattypan squash, trace circle 2 inches around outside of core. Cut on diagonal to remove core in cone-shaped piece. Scoop squash with melon baller, cover with plastic, and refrigerate until needed.
Heat oil in stockpot over medium heat. Coarsely chop remaining onion; add to soup pot with garlic clove. Cook until translucent, 8 minutes. Add reserved marjoram leaves, fennel, and carrots; cook, stirring, until just soft, about 15 minutes. Add stock and reserved cup bean liquid. Add potatoes and tomatoes; simmer 10 minutes. Add flageolets and corn; simmer until potatoes are tender and liquid is slightly stewy, about 5 minutes.
Raise heat to high. Stir in zucchini and beans. Cook about 2 minutes; remove from heat. Set pot in a bowl of ice water; stir, occasionally, until cold. Remove from ice; adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Ladle into squash or bowls; add spoonful basil puree, or drizzle of oil, to each serving.