This morning, I was standing in front of the refrigerator, wondering which vegetable to “sort” for the day.
(Note – “Sort” does not mean “to sort out”. It means “to take out”. This is how living in France for 9 years has ruined my English, without making my French fluent. For some years now, I have found myself often thinking in a melange of the two languages. Oh well…)
I wanted to cook dinner during the morning, since later this afternoon I had to go first to Noor’s playschool for the end of year “spectacle” (I can no longer instantly recall the equivalent word in English ), then to Indira’s to help at one of the games’ booths, part of their end of the year show. And I knew that there would be almost instant demands for dinner on getting back home at around 7pm.
I also wanted to achieve two other objectives – cook something simple, since I wanted to spend some part of the morning cooking ahead for a dinner at our place tomorrow evening, to which we have invited 3 families.
And I wanted to make sure the girls got a good portion of vegetables tonight, since I know from past experience that at these school fetes (hey !! that’s the word, isn’t it !) what they typically enjoy eating is barbecued/grilled sausages,cake, and les frites(french fries).
Luckily I saw that I had everything I needed for my variation of a very flavorful provencal vegetable soup called soupe au pistou, so this is what I made today.
The pistou (available bottled though the fresh paste – made by crushing fresh basil,olive oil, and garlic- is better) is optional, though of course this paste is what the soup derives its name from. My daughters certainly prefer it with a little pistou or pesto -the Italian version of pistou, this paste has pine nuts and parmesan cheese added to the other ingredients – stirred in.
But either way it is full of flavor, light, and wholesome.
Vegetable Soup with Pistou
(Enough for 6-8 adults)
Two leeks, tough portions chopped off
I medium sized courgette(you can substitute green beans,chopped in to half inch pieces, for courgette)
2 small turnips
4-5 tbsp of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
100 gms of vermicelli or any other small wholewheat pasta shape(optional)
1. Remove the tough outer layers of the leeks, and then chop them fine.
2. Peel and chop the carrots in to thin half moons
3. Peel and dice the turnip.
4. Was the courgette thoroughly and dice it without peeling it. This adds to the color of the soup plus I tend to think this keeps more of the nutrition in.
5. Chop the tomotoes into chunks that are neither too large nor too small.
6. Warm the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan, then sweat the leeks and the garlic on a low heat, taking care not to let either brown at all. After 5 minutes, add the carrots and the turnip, and cook together with the leeks and garlic mixture for about 15 minutes (keep the pan covered so that the vegetables soften in the steam) making sure to stir regularly so that the vegetables don’t burn. If you are using beans instead of curgette, you should add those with the carrots and turnips.
Next,add the courgette and cook everything together again for 5-10 minutes, till the courgette starts to soften. In the meanwhile, boil approx 1 litre of water in the kettle.
Now add the tomatoes, cook everything in the pan together for 5 minutes, season with salt and black pepper, add the boiled water, put the lid on again, and leave the whole mixture to cook till the vegetables are as soft as you’d like them – 30 minutes to 1 hour. if you want to add pasta to this soup, add it 10-15 minutes before you are ready to take the soup off the heat, so that it is cooked by the time the soup is done.
This soup develops more flavor if it’s left to sit, after it’s been cooked. That’s another reason I like to cook it ahead.
When everyone is ready to eat, serve some pistou or pesto on the side. Just 1/2 a teaspoon-add more if you like – really adds to this soup’s appeal for a lot of people – and indeed this is the classical way it is eaten in Provence. But I personally enjoy this soup without either paste added to it, since the soup already has a wonderful, delicate taste of it’s own, due to all the vegetables.