This is not the first time I’ve been excited about a recipe, or cookbook, by Lynn Alley. Recently, Alley’s delicious recipe for Enchilada Soup from “50 Simple Soups for the Slow Cooker” was highlighted, and today it’s Alley’s Provençal-inspired recipe for Soupe au Pistou, from “Cooking with Herbs: 50 Simple Recipes for Fresh Flavor” that has my attention. Chockfull of cannelloni beans and garden fresh vegetables like green beans, zucchini and tomatoes, the slow cooker-made soup is finished with a drizzle of homemade basil pistou. (Pistou is similar to pesto – sans the pine nuts). If you can get your hands on some “real” Parmesan cheese for making Alley’s pistou, treat yourself to a hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Although Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is expensive, you only need one-half cup (or two ounces) for the pistou, and it’s well worth every penny you’ll pay for it. When finished with the cheese, save the rind, for simmering in soup – if not for Soupe au Pistou, then for another time. (The rind can be sealed in a zip-lock freezer bag and placed in the freezer, where it will last for months.) For purchase information for either “Cooking with Herbs: 50 Simple Recipes for Fresh Flavor” or “50 Simple Soups for the Slow Cooker,” visit the publisher’s website at www.andrewsmcmeel.com.
Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Soup au Pistou
1 cup dried white beans (cannellini, navy, baby lima, whatever)
6 to 8 cups water (depending upon how thick you want the soup)*
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 Parmesan rind (optional)
1 pound (about 4 medium) tomatoes, chopped
2 medium zucchini, diced
1 pound green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon salt, or more as desired
6 cloves garlic
Rinse the beans thoroughly and place them in the insert of a 6- or 7-quart slow cooker. Add the water, onion, bay leaves, thyme and Parmesan rind, if using, and cook on high for about 4 hours or low for about 8 hours, or until the beans are tender. During the last hour of cooking, when the beans are almost tender, add the tomatoes, zucchini and green beans, and continue cooking until they are tender. Add salt to taste and press the garlic into the soup. Remove and discard the bay leaves. You can use a handheld immersion blender to puree some or all of the beans to thicken the soup, if you wish. Ladle the soup into bowls, then drizzle some of the pistou into each bowl.
*Kitchen Ade note: If you wish, you can replace all or part of the water with low-sodium chicken broth.
2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 large cloves garlic
¼ cup olive oil
Place the basil, Parmesan and garlic in the work bowl of a food processor and let the machine run until the basil and garlic are finely chopped. Turn off the machine, scrape down the sides of the bowl, then turn on the processor and drizzle the olive oil slowly through the feed tube until the pistou is smooth. Add salt to taste.
Taste-of-Summer Basil-Infused Olive Oil
As far as olive oils go, “cold pressed” extra virgin olive oil is at the top of the list. “Cold pressed” refers to the “first pressing of the olives,” which is manufactured free of chemicals and contains less than one percent acid. Purchase the best olive oil you can afford for making basil-infused olive oil.
1 cup cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups fresh basil leaves
Cheesecloth, rinsed and squeezed dry
Purée basil with oil in a blender. Pour the mixture into a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat; simmer for 45 seconds. Strain oil through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. (Do not press on the mixture as it goes through the strainer.) Strain mixture a second time through several layers of cheesecloth. Pour strained oil into a sterilized glass jar or bottle and cover. Oil will keep, in the refrigerator, for up to two weeks.