We are all familiar with pesto, right? Okay, well pistou is simply the French equivalent. It is fresh basil, garlic, olive oil, cheese and tomato (there's the difference) mashed together, classically in a mortar and pestle, or whizzed up in a food processor. Soupe au pistou is French vegetable soup with a dollop of pistou dropped into the soup just before serving. It is garlicky, herby and marvelous.
1 medium clove garlic, peeled
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 medium tomato (slightly smaller than a tennis ball), halved, the seeds/goo squeezed out, chopped
1 big handful of fresh basil leaves
3 ounces (100 grams) hard, aged cheese, like Mimolette or Old Amsterdam, grated
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Mash the garlic with the salt in a mortar and pestle. Add in the tomato chunks and mash. Drain off any accumulated liquid, add in the basil and continue mashing. Last, add in the grated cheese and oil and combine. Can be made up to 2 days ahead and stashed in the refrigerator.
8 cups vegetable stock
2 small leeks, using only the tender white to light green bit, chop and wash
1/2 cup chopped fennel bulb (including fronds, if you like-- pretty!)
1/2 cup chopped, peeled potato
3/4 cup fresh peas (or thawed frozen)
1 small zucchini, trimmed and chopped
1 tin cannellini or navy beans, drained
Shlamp the stock and leeks into a soup pot and bring to a simmer. Cook gently for 15 minutes, then add the fennel and potato chunks. Cook 10 minutes, then add in the peas, zucchini and beans. Bring to a simmer then cook for about 3 minutes, so that the peas are tender but still bright green. Serve up in pretty bowls with a dollop of pistou on top and some crusty bread on the side.
Makes 4 entree size servings