#1 soup: Provençal Vegetable

I've made dozens of soups in my adulthood, but none comes close to this (although, I'll be posting about my Gingered Carrot Soup in a couple of days and it's #2). It's sweet, earthy, hearty, and slips over your pallet like a pickpocket. It is utterly divine.

It's in Ina Garten's "Barefoot In Paris" cookbook, which is full of easy French fare that is at once lush and basic.

I'm not sure if it's the saffron, pistou, or the leeks that does it, but whatever the magical ingredient is it's harmony in your mouth incarnate.

I made it [mostly] vegan (with the exception of the pistou, but you could make that vegan if you wanted to). I made some gluten-free bread to serve along side, since it's my cleanse week, but otherwise I would have served it with some hot, thick-crusted artisan bread. A sourdough would balance very nicely, but so would a ciabatta or a simple baguette.

It even has a winter and summer version.

Enough talking. Here's the recipe. Try it. It's bliss.

Procvençal Vegetable Soup
Serves 6-8

2 tbsp good olive oil
2 c chopped onions (2 onions)
2 c chopped leeks, white and (very) light green parts (2 - 4 leeks) ::the darker the green, the tougher it'll be to chew::
1 1/2 c 1/2 inch diced unpeeled boiling potatoes (1 lb)
3 c 1/2 inch diced carrots (1 lb)
1 1/2 tbs kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 quarts chicken or veggie stock (low sodium and not tomato-based)
1 tsp saffron threads ::I used powdered saffron twice, and it worked great::
SUMMER: 1/2 lb haricots verts (and added zuccini), ends removed and cut in half
WINTER: 1/2 lb carrots (and added butternut squash - approximately 1/2 c), peeled and cut in 1/2 inch cubes
1 c Pistou
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Heat olive oil in a large stockpot, add the onions, and saute over low heat for 1- minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add the leeks, potatoes, (if WINTER) butternut squash and carrots, salt and pepper and saute over medium heat for another 5 minutes. Add the stock and saffron. Bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender. (If SUMMER), add the haricots verts and zuccini and bring back to a simmer, cook for another 15 minutes.

To serve, whisk 1/2 cup of the pistou into the hot soup, then season to taste. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and more pistou.

Magic ingredient??

Makes 1 cup

4 large garlic cloves
1/4 c tomato paste
24 large basil leaves
1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 c good olive oil

Place the garlic, tomato paste, basil and Parmesan in the bowl of a food processor and puree. With the motor running, slowly pour the olive oil down the feed tube to make a paste.

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