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.

LOVAGE AND CELERY SOUP

LOVAGE AND CELERY SOUP from “Scarista Style” by Alison Johnson
Scarista House is an award-winning hotel and restaurant on the west coast of the Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

You will be glad of this recipe if you grow lovage, as it will have taken over your garden and you won’t know what to do with it. “The root grows thick, great and deep, spreading much and enduring long…It is planted in gardens, where it grows large,” says Culpeper blandly, adding that “a decoction of the root is a remedy for ague.” If you don’t live in a malarial marsh, you will find you have a large surplus of this particular herb.
This is one of my favorite soups, and worth suffering the rampages of the plant for.
2 medium onions
1 head celery
2 large potatoes
2 ounces butter
3 large handfuls lovage leaves
425 ml water = 14.3 fluid ounces
275 ml milk = 9.3 fluid ounces
150 ml cream = 5 fluid ounces
Chop the onion, celery and potatoes coarsely and sweat them in the butter for a few minutes. Add the water and lovage and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer till the vegetables are very soft. Stir it occasionally, as the mixture will be thick and inclined to stick.
The soup now has to be sieved, as celery is hairy stuff. It is easier to do this if you liquidise it first, adding the milk as you do so.
Return the soup to the pan, add salt to taste, and the cream. Reheat without boiling. Serve with a blob of cream or some freshly chopped lovage on top.
Makes about 2 quarts—serves 6.

Carol’s notes:
½ teaspoon salt is about right. I converted “milliliters” to “fluid ounces”, as noted above.
I don’t use cream. I hardly ever use cream in anything—too many calories—and it tastes just fine, as far as I’m concerned. In fact, most of the time I just use skim milk.
I don’t sieve the soup, as the recipe says—instead I run it through the blender, adding milk as suggested. I think this works out just fine. But it is probably a matter of personal taste.
The soup doesn’t freeze well, but I discovered that it works okay as a cold soup.

OLD COUNTRY BORSCHT

OLD COUNTRY BORSCHT
Carol Gerlitz

3 cups water (I use 1 to 1½ cups red wine if I have some to use up)
¾ to 1 pound beef brisket, cubed—or stew meat or chuck—whatever you wish
½ onion, chopped
3 medium stalks celery, cut into ½” lengths
3-4 medium carrots, pared and thinly sliced
2-3 medium beets, pared and sliced
½ head cabbage, cut into reasonable-size hunks
1 bay leaf
1½ teaspoons salt

1 medium to large beet, pared and coarsely shredded
3-4 oz. tomato paste
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar

½ pint dairy sour cream

In a large kettle place the first 9 ingredients. Simmer, covered, about 2 hours. I use a 6-quart pressure cooker, and cook 20-25 minutes at 15 lb pressure; you can either release pressure by running cold water over the pressure cooker, or just let it sit until the pressure is back to normal.

Add the next 5 ingredients and simmer, covered, 20-25 minutes. You can cool and refrigerate at this point—or serve it right up.

Serve topped with sour cream.

Makes about 5-6 servings, depending on the size.

BASIL PESTO

BASIL PESTO
from Mary Lou Carlson as adapted by Carol Gerlitz (originally in Fine Cooking magazine, June/July 2001)
Yields about 1½ cups

3 cups packed basil leaves (about 6-7 ounces of leaves)
¼ cup ice water
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
½ cup + 2 tbsp. pine nuts
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ tsp. salt
3/8 tsp. black pepper
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Bring 2 quarts water seasoned with 1 tablespoon salt to a rolling boil. Prepare an ice bath by combining ice and water in a large bowl. (Be sure you freeze a lot of ice cubes ahead of time for this.)

Divide the basil into 2 or 3 parts, so that one part of basil will fit into a large metal strainer (about 5 or 6 inches in diameter). Put the basil (in strainer) into boiling water, pressing it gently under the water with a rubber spatula, and cook for 2 or 3 seconds. Remove the basil from the water and plunge it (still in the strainer) into the ice bath to stop the cooking process. Let cool in the ice bath for 1-2 minutes, until completely cooled. Loosen it up with your fingers to aid the cooling process.

Remove the basil from the ice bath and squeeze it lightly with your hands to remove most of the excess water. Set aside until all basil is prepared.

Chop the basil coarsely with a sharp knife and then put it into a food processor. Add the garlic, pine nuts, cheese, ½ tsp. salt, pepper, and ¼ cup ice water. Blend until the basil is coarsely pureed, scraping down the sides (and adding more water to facilitate blending only if needed).

Be patient; don’t add more water if it isn’t necessary.

With the food processor running, add the oil in a steady stream until the pesto looks creamy and emulsified. Cover and store in the refrigerator for a few days or in the freezer for up to a few months. Serve over 12-16 ounces of cooked rotini or fusilli, or your favorite pasta. Or dream up some other good uses for the pesto and let the rest of us know! (I’ve used it as a topping for pizza instead of tomato sauce—tastes wonderful that way)

YUM!

My handwritten notes also indicate that several times I’ve done about 1½ pounds basil in three batches—3 cups, 3 cups, and 4 cups at a time—which resulted a total of 5-6 cups pesto. I’ve also kept it frozen for much longer than a few months!