Soupe au Pistou (Paleo, AIP, Vegan)
A bounty of garden-fresh vegetables and loads of fresh basil means it’s time for soup au pistou, one of my favorite summer treats. The first time I made it, I was a bit confused by the simplicity of the ingredients: vegetables cooked in water, that’s it? I underestimated the transformative power of pistou, the French cousin of Italian pesto, very similar except without nuts (and in my version, without cheese either). In fact, the star of the soup is the pistou, pungent and a little sweet, melting into gently cooked summer vegetables.Some recipes call for pasta, some call for white beans, some call for both. I like to keep it pared down to the basics, truly just vegetables, water, herbs, olive oil, salt, and water. The long-cooked, complex flavors of stews and winter soups will be upon us soon enough – in these last days of summer, I’m still happy to keep things pared down to light and fresh.
Soupe au Pistou
Note: Dicing the vegetables into similarly-sized pieces ensures even cooking…and a prettier result. Substitute vegetables for what you have on hand or what looks good at the market. Consider green beans (a classic ingredient), peas or other freshly shelled legumes, turnips, radishes, asparagus, artichoke hearts, parsnips, mushrooms, etc. If you’re not avoiding dairy, freshly grated cheese, either mixed into the pistou or sprinkled on top of the soup, would be lovely. If you prefer a richer soup, you can cook the vegetables in a homemade meat or vegetable broth (a boxed or canned version wouldn’t work here).
For the soupe:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup leeks, white and pale green part, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 cup red onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 cup carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 cup kohlrabi, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 cup patty-pan squash (or zucchini), cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 cup thinly sliced Savoy cabbage
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
For the pistou:
1 fat clove garlic (or 2 small cloves), peeled and chopped
1 packed cup basil leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
Make the soupe:
Set a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the olive oil and when hot, add the leeks and onion with a pinch of salt. Saute, stirring frequently, until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add carrots and kohlrabi and another pinch of salt and continue sauteeing until carrots and kohlrabi are softening, 10 minutes. Adjust heat so vegetables are cooking and softening but not browning. Add squash, cabbage and thyme and saute another 5 minutes.
Add enough water to not quite cover vegetables and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer soupe, uncovered, until vegetables are just tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and season with salt to taste.
Make the pistou:
While the soupe simmers, make the pistou. In the bowl of a mortar and pestle (or food processor), puree the garlic, then add the basil leaves and puree. Slowly add the olive oil until mixture is a paste. Season with salt to taste.
Divide soupe among four bowls. Swirl in dollops of pistou and serve immediately.
In fact, paring down is this fall’s theme – yes, it’s fall now, damn it. September is my favorite Minnesota month and hoooey does it fly by! Every year I have to fight with myself to slow down, get outside, and enjoy these perfect, golden, warm-with-cool-breeze days before…well, we all know what’s next. Fall is the time I feel energized to recommit to good habits – I think it’s the whole back-to-school vibe. Cooler, darker nights make it easier to shut down electronic devices, take an Epsom salt bath, and get to bed on time, which in turn makes it easier to be up early. I always have better energy and productivity if I’m up early enough to exercise and spend a few minutes writing down my goals for the day before hitting the computer.In fact, I enjoy the routine so much you’d think I would just stick with it, forever, but that would be far too logical and easy. No, instead I decide I like a groove and then I start to rebel and experiment with violating it. This used to drive me nuts about myself, but I’ve gotten old enough to just accept it and see it for what it is – my inner child, refusing to be boxed in – and do my best to remember that good sleep, healthy food, and exercise are not constraints but gifts I give to myself (I seriously have to remind myself several times/day). It’s an ongoing battle and will be for always – the less I beat myself up about it, and focus on the gift part, the faster I fall back into a restorative routine. At least the balmy beauty of September makes the battle a bit easier.
So does, by the way, not drinking alcohol. A big part of being out at food events – and that’s what I do, one or more nights per week – is enjoying great wine and cocktails along with the food. Or at least I thought that was part of it, until even one drink was making me feel like hell the next day, and I eliminated alcohol as part of the paleo autoimmune protocol/AIP. What a treat to be out and about, running around with my friends, checking out new and fun things, eating the delicious things that fit the AIP (which is tricky, but doable)…and to feel fantastic and energetic the next day. I’m embarrassed to say it took me so long to figure it out.If you’re new to the AIP (or paleo or just cleaning up your diet in general), you might be feeling deprived and sad and I totally, totally get it. Hang in there because not only do you start to feel (and look) better (the point of all of this), but you also start to appreciate food in a new way. It’s always been delightful to eat things that are delicious, decadent even. But now it’s delightful and immensely rewarding to eat things that are delicious, decadent, and healing. Food becomes something more than just pleasure: it becomes a path for appreciating and caring for your body; cooking from scratch; the farms that produce real, beautiful ingredients; the chefs and cooks who develop lovely recipes; and the years you wasted not giving a shit about what you ate or drank, until you didn’t have a choice but to think of food as medicine. You’ll want the years back, but in a good way, I promise. That regret is terrific motivation for getting it straight aka giving yourself the gift of good health. It certainly is for me, even if like all things that are good for me, I battle with myself every day to remember! 🙂
Happy September! xo Stephanie
PS Oh hey, if you’re following the AIP and living in the Twin Cities, we have a Minneapolis/St. Paul Autoimmune Protocol Group on Facebook – join us! We have dinner together the second Tuesday of the month and would love to meet you.