The change from summer to fall is tough for the fabulous among us. Sure, that first crisp day sends you running to unpack sweaters and jauntily wrapping a scarf atop your shoulders, but the farm hasn’t caught up yet. Your plans for farm-fresh, hearty casseroles filled with rich winter squash, savory Brussels sprouts and broccoli won’t be possible for a few more weeks. For now you’re stuck with the last harvests of tomatoes, zucchini, sweet peppers and eggplant, none of which taste quite as fresh and flavorful as they did at the season’s peak.
What’s a cook to do? As the seasons change the dishes we cook work a little harder to soften less tender produce and add bright, bold flavor. Dishes like ratatouille, minestrone and caponata were all created to do just that – long cooked vegetables heavily seasoned with fresh herbs and garlic give us the flavors we crave in one final celebration of the season.
One of my favorite end of season dishes is soup au pistou, a French provincial vegetable soup richly seasoned with a Provençal version of pesto. Make a triple batch of the pesto. Toss some with steamed green beans or slathered over grilled chicken thighs for a quick weeknight dinner. The rest goes in the freezer for a taste of summer during winter’s coldest, grey days.
For now? One last time let’s suit up in shorts and sandals, grab a bowl of this hearty but not heavy soup and celebrate another fabulous summer.
Soup au Pistou
This soup is richly and boldly seasoned with pistou sauce, a Provençal version of Italian pesto made with the addition of tomato but without the pine nuts.
4 tbs olive oil
1 red onion, diced
1 large carrot, quartered and sliced
1 cup dry white wine
9 cups vegetable stock
3 sprigs parsley
2 bay leaves
2 cups green beans cut in 1” pieces
1 large zucchini, quartered and sliced
2 large tomatoes cut in 1” pieces
4 cups quartered Crimini mushrooms
2 cloves garlic
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
1 cup grated parmesan
1 tomato seeded and diced
1/4 cup olive oil – the good stuff!
Warm oil in 6 quart soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, 3-5 minutes. Add carrot and cook for 5 minutes longer.
Add wine and cook, partially covered, until reduced. Add 1 cup stock and cook, partially covered, until reduced.
Add remaining stock, parsley and bay, and cook until carrots are just firm in center, about 10 minutes.
Add beans, zucchini, tomatoes and mushrooms. Cook until carrots and beans are tender, about 10 minutes longer.
Meanwhile, make pistou: combine garlic, basil, parmesan and tomato in a food processor with 1/2 tsp salt. Pulse until grainy. Add olive oil and thin to a thick sauce.
Stir through 1 cup pistou sauce. Season to taste with Sherry vinegar, salt and pepper. Top each bowl with another spoonful of pistou sauce.
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