SOUPE AU PISTOU

SOUPE AU PISTOU [vegetable soup with garlic, basil & herbs]
from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking
Early summer is the Mediterranean season for soupe au pistou, when fresh basil, fresh white beans, and broad mange-tout beans are all suddenly available. The pistou itself, like the Italian pesta, is a sauce made of garlic, basil, tomato and cheese, and is just as good on spaghetti as it is in this rich vegetable soup. Fortunately this soup is not confined to summer and fresh vegetables, for you can use canned navy beans or kidney beans, fresh or frozen string beans, and a fragrant dried basil. Other vegetables in season may be added with the green beans as you wish, such as peas, diced zucchini, and green or red bell peppers.

For 6 to 8 servings

3 quarts water
2 cups each: diced carrots, diced boiling potatoes, diced onions
1 Tablespoon salt
(If available, 2 cups fresh white beans, and omit the navy beans farther on) Either boil the water, vegetables, and salt slowly in a 6-quart kettle for 40 minutes; or pressure-cook for 5 minutes, release pressure, and simmer uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes. Correct seasoning.
2 cups diced fresh green beans or “cut” frozen green beans
2 cups cooked or canned navy beans or kidney beans
1/3 cup broken spaghetti or vermicelli
1 slice stale white or wheat bread, crumbled
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch of saffron Twenty minutes before serving, so the green vegetables will retain their freshness, add the beans, spaghetti or vermicelli, bread and seasonings to the boiling soup. Boil slowly for about 15 minutes, or until the green beans are just cooked through. Correct seasoning again.
4 cloves mashed garlic
4 Tablespoons tomato paste
¼ cup chopped fresh basil or 1½ Tablespoons fragrant dried basil
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ to ½ cup fruity olive oil Prepare the following pistou while the soup is cooking: place garlic, tomato paste, basil and cheese in the soup tureen and blend to a paste with a spatula or wooden spoon; then, drop by drop, beat in the olive oil. When the soup is ready for serving, beat a cup gradually into the pistou. Pour in the rest of the soup.

Serve with hot French bread, or hard-toasted bread rounds basted with olive oil.