Photo by Libby MacFarlane
The idea was rejoin at 8 for soup. It had been, after all, a thick, wet day made for thudding around in pajama bottoms and wool socks, a Sunday, the drizzle thin at first but then turning, after noon, into full, taut drops that smacked as they hit the pavement, creating networks of unrelenting puddles, so many that it had been a day to pull out rain boots too. After clutching ginger tea through the storm and making trips to several grocery stores, I had a pot full of raw vegetables, glistening carrot tops and leeks protruding out the top, so when I walked across the street, the woman who waited in her car when the light changed saw a hooded figure clutching a bounty full of dense green shrubbery exploding out of a witches brew-worthy vat, hurrying across Divisadero to her soup date.
Welcomed with flushed cheeks and candles and the warmth that emanates only from kitchens on such chill days in such high ceilinged Victorians, we washed first and laid everything out in its place, one of us taking photos because the carrots and the beans were just too radiant not to. Then shelling dappled cranberry beans, slicing leaks, dicing purple, orange, cream colored carrots, why wouldn’t one spend all of their resources on purple carrots? With their raspberry outer layers and sunset centers. Zucchini, the events of the weekend spilling out as we split sharp garlic into tiny pieces, a dream I had last night, the soccer game that was played one man down, making equal pieces of green beans through meditated cutting, puncturing the summer’s last tomatoes, readying them for their steaming fate, oh and someone spent a late October day surfing.
Spilling everything out, there were years when, pushing tomato juices into the pot along with everything else, when my relationship with food was far more complicated, and mine, sauté everything until it’s golden first, then add vegetables, then tell me what that was like, one tying a bundle of thyme, rosemary, parsley together with only a stalk of thyme is not an easy task, nor is running a race against yourself, but soup, so simple, everything melting together a little, the vegetables losing their edge, becoming less flashy and more mushy, becoming tempting and comforting and everything that goes well with wine and tea.
The last detail being torn pieces of basil, almond slivers, a little parmesan, the pistou, is that the same as pesto? It sure tastes that way. The week’s about to start, what a charming heap of flavor on top of the rich broth, a dash, the perk on your tongue before a deep nurture, no holding back, the conversation flowing up and out like steam, I am worried, that too shall pass, that will run together with other flavors, a mouthful of deep, soft, summer into fall soup.
Photo by Libby MacFarlane
Minestrone with Shell Beans and Almond Pistou
From The New York Times, published on September 28th, 2010
For the soup
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 sprig rosemary
3 bushy sprigs thyme
4 parsley sprigs
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium zucchini or yellow squash (or half of each for color), diced
1 carrot, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 pound fresh shell beans like cranberry or cannelloni, shelled (about 1 1/2 cups)
4 plum tomatoes (about 3/4 pound), diced
1/2 cup thinly sliced green beans
FOR THE PISTOU
4 cups fresh basil, packed
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup chopped plum tomato
2/3 cup grated Parmesan
2 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil.
1. In a large pot over medium-low heat, heat the oil. Tie rosemary, thyme and parsley in a bundle with kitchen string if desired (this makes it easier to fish out later). Add the herbs, leeks, garlic, zucchini or yellow squash, carrot, salt and pepper to the pot and sauté until the vegetables are golden, 10 to 15 minutes.
2. Add broth, shell beans, tomatoes, green beans and 4 cups water to the pot. Simmer partly covered until the beans are tender, 30 to 45 minutes. Discard herbs. Thin with a little water if the soup is too thick.
3. Prepare the pistou: Pulse the basil, almonds, tomato, Parmesan, garlic and salt in a food processor until basil is chopped and all the ingredients are combined. Drizzle in olive oil while the motor runs and continue processing until a paste forms. Serve the soup with dollops of the pistou, letting people add more as needed.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings.