I have now learned that yes– putting pesto, or, as the French say, pistou, or your minestrone? It’s a mighty fine thing.
Last night’s soup, interpreted to use what I had in my pantry and fridge from this Melissa Clark recipe here at the NYT (quickly becoming my go-to gal, even more so than Bittman), was topped off by a dollop of almond pistou. It was mighty delicious, even with my fiddling about and omissions, the which you’ll see when you compare my bastardized version to Clark’s, which no doubt is better– but I didn’t have leeks, fresh tomatoes, or fresh beans of the kind she called for on hand, but I still wanted soup. So I winged it, because I did have fresh basil– and really, when you’ve got fresh basil, pistou just must be made.
Look at that photo and see if you disagree.
And now the important part: the recipe, such as it is.
1 32 oz. can chef’s cut tomatoes, with or without basil.
1 small can chickpeas
12 baby carrots, appx. or 1 large peeled carrot
1 large onion, chopped
1 med. zucchini, chopped
large handful green beans
1 sprig rosemary
large spring parsley
2 cups chicken broth made from Knorr bouillon (Yes. I am really that lazy. All the time. I do not use stock, pretty much ever.)
3 tbsps. extra virgin olive oil, because that’s all I ever keep in the house
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the flat of a large knife
Large bunch basil, appx. 2 cups
1/2 cup unsalted roasted almonds, skin on
freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup parmesan, grated
salt, 1 tsp
extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
Tie the herbs together with butcher’s twine, put them in a tea ball or cheesecloth, or decide you don’t mind fishing them out or picking out pieces of rosemary from your teeth (or finely chop the herbs and add them to the sauce that way).
Saute the carrots, onions and herbs over med-high heat in the olive oil with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes until softened, appx. 5 mins.
Add garlic and other vegetables, except for tomatoes and beans, toss to coat in oil and lightly golden, appx. 10 mins. more. Do not let the garlic get too brown.
Add the tomatoes, beans, chickpeas, and a can of water from the tomato can, lower the heat and set the whole thing to simmer 30 mins. with the lid on. (I only added one can of water from the chickpeas and now wished I’d added just a bit more, so I’m saying that I should have added from the tomato can and not the chickpeas as I look back.)
When the soup is done, make the pistou in your food processor or blender or mortar and pestle or other wham-bashy thing (I know. Highly technical, here.) Whiz the basil with the remaining ingredients and just enough olive oil to make a thick paste that coheres to itself but isn’t too liquid.
Put a teaspoon-sized dollop on top of your soup, serve with a hearty red wine like a petite sirah from Bogle or a Rioja or somesuch, and enjoy the vegetable, herb-almond-cheesy goodness.
I think if you had a lactose allergy or didn’t eat cheese you could well leave out the parmesan in the pistou, up the salt slightly, and still have the same overall tasty effect. I’d probably add more oil and almonds to up the fat content as well.