Leave it to the French to create a perfectly pure and boring vegetable soup - then lift it to astonishing heights by the last minute addition of pistou, an intense concentration of garlic, cheese, oil, and tomato paste that knocks those poor little naked veggies ecstatically flat. This is a simplified version of the recipe my fishing buddy Susan Eggert gave me - I like it because it's so simple I doN°t put off making it...especially when I've got leftover frozen pistou in the freezer.
3 fresh tomatoes (or 6 canned) peeled, seeded and chopped
salt to taste
freshly-ground black pepper to taste
6 garlic loves
4 tablespoons tomato paste
3 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
500 g dried white or flageolet beans soaked overnight
60 g chopped parsley
60 g chopped fresh basil
50 g grated parmesan cheese
2.5 l water
130 ml olive oil
Recipe preparation steps
In a large soup pot, bring the soaked beans and fresh water to a boil. Add all the vegetables and herbs, bring to a second boil, then reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for an hour.
Meanwhile, make the pistou if you don't have any handy in the freezer. Press the garlic, then whisk the tomato paste, basil, cheese, oil, and parsley with it in a blender until it is a rich paste. Add the salt and pepper to the soup, stir well, and continue simmering uncovered for another 15 to 20 minutes.
When ready to serve, ladle the soup into big bowls. Pass the pistou - and extra Parmesancheese, if you like - so people can load up the bowl with flavor that releases itself right under their noses. And don't forget the crusty bread and wine.