RECIPE: Pistou Soup for Fall

I made this soup for my family for Thanksgiving as a light starter to the feast. I always liked pistou. It is such a fresh and light French soup-and really features farm fresh summer vegetables. Often, this soup is very simple and doesn't really cook long-allowing the fresh vegetables to be the star. But when the vegetables aren't coming from the garden, the soup needs more layers of flavors to back up the vegetables during the fall season in my opinion. SO instead of cooking the onions with the rest of the vegetables for only 15 minutes, I cooked them in with the smoked pork jowl. I also added a touch of anchovy paste for umami. Then I added the beans to all that caramelized goodness at the bottom of the pan and scraped and tossed them all in that flavor before adding broth. I also kicked up the herb amounts. The result brought hearty compliments around the Thanksgiving table. I plan on making this again for our "dreaded" weekly soup and salad night Monday. I think this soup will make dinner less depressing. In fact, I am sure of it!

Pistou Soup for Fall
Adapted from Food and Wine


½ cup dried navy beans, soaked overnight and drained
2  2-inch chunks of ham rind, pork jowl or smoked ham hock
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. anchovy paste
6 thyme sprigs, 6 parsley sprigs, and 4 fresh (2 dry) bay leaf, tied together with kitchen twine
1-quart chicken stock
1 medium tomato, cored
3 cups lightly packed basil leaves
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt
1 medium carrot, cut into ¼-inch dice
1 small zucchini, cut into ¼-inch dice
1 medium onion, cut into ¼-inch dice
6 ounces haricots verts, cut into 1-inch lengths

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat brown the pork and render some of the fat. Add the olive oil, then sauté the onions until softened. Add the anchovy paste and mash it in with the onions with the back of your spoon. Add the drained beans and toss, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen up any brown bits.  Cover the navy beans with the chicken stock and 2 cups of water. Add the herb bundle. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to moderately low and simmer until the beans are tender about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan of water to a simmer. Using a sharp paring knife, score an X on the bottom of the tomato. Add to the saucepan and blanch just until the skin starts to peel, about 30 seconds. Transfer the tomato to an ice water bath to cool. Peel and seed 
the tomato, then cut it into ¼-inch dice.

In a food processor, pulse the basil with the garlic until finely chopped. With the machine on, gradually add the olive oil until incorporated. Season the pistou with salt and pepper. Store in an airtight container and chill until ready to use. Drizzle a little olive oil on top to prevent browning while storing. Let the pistou sit out at room temperature to take the chill out before serving it on the soup.

Back to the soup, remove the pork and herb bundle from the beans and discard when the beans are tender. Add the diced tomato, carrot, zucchini and haricots verts. Season with a generous pinch of salt. Simmer over moderately low heat until the 
vegetables are tender, about 15-20 minutes. Adjust the seasoning  with salt and pepper and ladle into bowls. Serve with 1-2 teaspoons of the pistou on top of each bowl.

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