Thursday, September 29, 2016

French Vegetable Soup with Pistou #recipe @LucyBurdette

LUCY BURDETTE: This recipe is based on one from the fabulous David Lebovitz's newsletter. If you like reading about Paris and French food, I recommend you subscribe. He was a chef at Alice Water's restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, but many years ago moved to Paris and is excellent at translating French ways to Americans.

Lucy with Notre Dame Gargoyles

I remember eating a soup like this when I was a student in the 1970s in France and terribly homesick. A French family used to invite my roommate and me to Sunday dinner every week because they knew we were lonely for home--wasn't that sweet? The mom would sometimes serve this soup so making it brought back some fun memories. John says I'd choose France for every vacation if I could--he's not far off! Anyway, back to soup...

I veered quite a bit from David's recipe and you can move back to his or further away from both of ours – the recipe is very flexible. It's good for someone on a low sodium diet, because the pistou (essentially pesto without the nuts) packs a big flavor punch. I used the vegetables that I either had in the garden or saw at the weekly farmers market. But you could also add potatoes, tomatoes, celery...

Ingredients for the soup

Two medium zucchini
2 to 3 leeks, well washed
Carrots, either three large or five or six smaller
Green beans
3 to 4 cloves garlic
1 cup dried white beans (I used Navy)
1 32 ounce box low sodium chicken broth
Handful of small pasta, if you like
Chopped tomatoes if you like
2 sprigs thyme (which I forgot, darn it!

The day before you plan to make the soup, soak the white beans overnight in water. Rinse them, and then cover them with water in a large pot and simmer until soft with two bay leaves. (This could take an hour or so.) When the beans are soft, add the chicken broth to the pot and keep simmering.

Chop the leeks. Chop the green beans into bite-size pieces. Chop the zucchini likewise. Chop the garlic cloves. I used my food processor to chop the carrots, and didn't even rinse it before starting the pistou. And that explains the little flecks of orange you will see later.

In a large frying pan, heat some good olive oil and sauté the leeks, the garlic, carrots, onion, zucchini and saute until soft. Add the green beans and sautéed them a bit too. Scrape this mixture into the bean pot and simmer everything until soft, about 20-30 minutes. You may if you wish add a handful of pasta at the end, but you may have to add more liquid too.

For the pistou

One clove garlic
One small bunch basil, cleaned and leaves removed (my favorite veggie guy at the market had Thai basil so that's what I tried)
1/4 cup good olive oil
About an ounce Parmesan cheese

Chop the garlic in the food processor, then add the olive oil. Add the Parmesan cheese in smaller pieces and chop that in. Finally add the basil and pulse until everything is combined.


Serve the bowls of soup with a heaping tablespoon of the basil mixture dropped in the center. Then each diner can stir his or her pistou/pesto into the soup. Or pass the pistou in a separate bowl if you have concerned eaters...

Lucy writes the Key West food critic mysteries.  Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram!


  1. Thanks, Lucy for this versatile, classic recipe. We have abruptly changed from summer to autumn temperatures a few days ago, and I am switching to soup and stew mode (instead of salads). I usually make a pesto but I see the pistou is a easy alternative without nuts.

    1. I know the feeling Grace! And I wondered about the nuts gone missing too--but this was delicious!

  2. Merveilleux! I can almost taste and smell it.