Ooh la la! Oui oui! Nom nom!
My apartment, picnic-style due to a tragic coffee-table accident. That's me, always living like a grown-up.
Ashley, Julie, Katie, Laura, me
apples with goat cheese
caramelized leek bread pudding
soupe au pistou with parmesan croutons
mango sorbet with mixed berry compote (thanks to Laura for transporting us to some tropical isle during the snow storm)
chocolate peanut butter snickers omgcookies (thanks to Katie (I gained 10 pounds!))
A high-energy Zoomba demonstration from Ashley
A rousing game of Loaded Questions, in which we learned that Laura's favorite pet name is "Mr. Soberface," Katie has a thing for grape drink, Julie's affinity is for inverse heart shapes, and we all (a) make too many Justin Bieber jokes and (b) think a half-formed bird still in the egg is pretty much the grossest. Oh, and Ashley really likes Ryan Gosling's pants, but then, who wouldn't?
An uncanny impression of me eating this soup:
I pretty much continued that way until the end of the bowl.
The key that takes this soup from the the normal-vegetable-soup garage to the superior-vegetable-soup highway is the broth. It's layered and savory and I could have eaten it all by its lonesome. But then that pistou jumps in the car, and it's all "let's take the HOV lane straight to flavor town, friendo!" Each bite is different, with more or less pistou, but each bite was dangerously delightful in its own special way.
Wikipedia informs me that--while the word pistou came about when the Genoese brought pesto to the Provençal--pesto and pistou are SO TOTALLY DIFFERENT YOU GUYS, as pistou does not traditionally contain pine nuts. (See below: OOPS. Sorry, Provence, but you can't tell us what to do! We're breakin' your stuffy old rules, old man.)
This is another classic soup I've been wanting to try for a while now, and one for which I read quite a few recipes, from Alice Waters' to David Lebovitz's to some Williams-Sonoma book to a few blogs (even some written in FRENCH that I attempted to decipher with my crayon-sharp skills). How did I settle on this one? Well, it seemed like the most complicated, unnecessarily time-consuming, easily mess-up-able one. In other words: PERFECT for a weeknight, y'all. Suzanne Goin I am not, but I can somewhat, partially, stumblingly follow one of her recipes. With how painfully delicious this was, I can only imagine how good it could have been had I done everything just right.
In summation: Pain in the booty (and not just because we were sitting on the floor all night)? Oh, yes. Worth it? Oh, heavens yes.
Soupe au Pistou
adapted from a recipe by Suzanne Goin
Who's ready for a supermegalong ingredient list? I AM! Here's your first clue that no sane being would run home from work to attempt this dish:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 sprig rosemary
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1/4 bulb fennel, chopped
1/2 cup roughly chopped carrot
1/3 cup roughly chopped celery
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
5 sprigs thyme
3 sprigs Italian parsley
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup diced canned San Marzano tomatoes
2 quarts water
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup thinly sliced basil
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (I toasted mine in a small, nonstick skillet, due to my tendency to burn at least the first two batches of any nut I try to toast in the oven.)
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3/4 cup diced red onion
3/4 cup diced fennel bulb
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups diced zucchini
1 1/2 cups 1-inch cut haricot vert (skinny French green beans)
1/2 cup cooked flageolet beans (you can find these canned or dried when fresh are not in season. I used dried, first soaking them overnight and then simmering for 1.5 hours.)
1/4 pound ciabatta bread (or whatever bread you like), torn or cut into one-inch pieces
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano
1 cup baby spinach leaves
1. Make the broth.
Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot (I used my Dutch oven) over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the olive oil, rosemary and pepper flakes. When they start to sizzle, add the onion, fennel, carrot, celery, garlic, thyme, parsley, bay leaf, peppercorns and salt.
Saute the vegetables for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring often, until they begin to caramelize. Add the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the water, bring to a boil and simmer until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender, or in a regular blender in batches. Strain with a fine mesh strainer, and cool completely.
2. Make the pistou.
This is the first time I've made a pesto/pistou with a mortar and pestle rather than in my Magic Bullet, and I think it really made a difference in the texture and the releasing of the herbs' flavors, and the rustic look of it was also quite appealing. More work, yes, but worth it.
Pound the garlic in a mortar with the salt until it forms a paste, then transfer it to a small bowl. Don't worry about getting every last bit out--it'll all get mixed together eventually. Pound the basil until it turns into a paste, then add it to the bowl with the garlic. Add the olive oil to the basil and garlic. Pound the parsley and add it to the bowl, then crush the pine nuts up a bit and add them. Stir it up and taste for seasoning.
3. Make the croutons.
Heat the oven to 350F. Toss the bread with a few glugs of olive oil and the Parmigiano, then spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until golden and crispy on the outside, but still chewy on the inside, 10 to 15 minutes. Yum. I'm wanting seconds.
4. Put it all together and eat it with respect for the wonder that it is.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saute pan over high heat. Add the onion, and cook until translucent. Add the fennel, thyme, salt and pepper, and cook until tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove to a plate and cool.
Return the pan to the stove, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and saute the zucchini over high heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove to a plate and cool.
Place green beans in the broth, then heat to boiling. Add all other cooked vegetables and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add baby spinach and stir until wilted.
Heat the soup to boiling. Stir in the baby spinach. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish each with a spoonful of pistou and a handful of croutons.
Serve the soup with a few croutons and a spoonful of pistou on top.