Food & Entertaining - Garden to Table

Use this fragrant garden herb in a variety of dishes

French Vegetable Soup (Makes 8 servings)
Very similar to Italian minestrone, this hearty soup is finished with the classic French version of pesto (a.k.a. pistou): fresh basil pounded with garlic, olive oil and parmesan.

1 1/2 cups (375 mL) dried, small white kidney beans or navy beans, soaked overnight in water to cover
1/4 cup (60 mL) olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, trimmed and finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
6 cups (1.5 L) chicken broth
2 tbsp. (30 mL) tomato paste
1/2 small head savoy (or regular) cabbage, cored and shredded (6 cups, 1.5 L)
2 leeks, green parts only, chopped
2 small zucchinis, trimmed & finely chopped
1 cup (250 mL) fresh green beans, cut into 3/4-inch (2-cm) pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Drain beans. In a large saucepan, combine beans with 6 cups (1.5 L) cold water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour or until beans are tender.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic, celery, onion and carrots; cook for 10 minutes or until vegetables have softened.

Then stir vegetable mixture into beans (do not drain), along with broth, tomato paste and cabbage. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Stir in leeks and zucchinis; cook for 15 minutes longer or until vegetables are tender. Meanwhile, cook green beans in a pan of boiling, salted water until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain, plunge into cold water, and drain again. Add beans to soup a minute or so before serving.

3 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp. (5 mL) fine sea salt (or to taste)
2 cups (500 mL) loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup (125 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup (125 mL) freshly grated parmesan cheese

Place garlic and salt in a mortar and, using a pestle, mash to form a paste. Add basil leaves a few at a time, grinding and pounding into a paste. Once all leaves have been incorporated, start to add olive oil a little at a time until a creamy consistency is reached. Taste for seasoning. Scrape mixture into a small bowl and gently stir in cheese until well blended.

Ladle soup into warmed bowls and place a generous spoonful of pistou into the centre of each serving; stir slightly. Serve with additional grated parmesan.

Click here to learn how to grow your own basil.

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