Soupe au pistou (vegetable soup with garlic and basil)

Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Yields Serves 8 to 10 (makes 15 cups)
Soupe au pistou (vegetable soup with garlic and basil)
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Soup base


In the morning, put the water and the lamb shank into an earthenware pot-au-feu or a large heavy pot. Slowly bring to a boil while skimming off the gray scum from the surface.


When it comes to a boil add the salt, cayenne, squash, fresh borlotti and white beans (or the soaked and boiled dried beans), onion, leeks, carrots, garlic, potatoes and tomatoes.


Return to a boil and adjust the heat to maintain a simmer or light boil, lid ajar, for about 30 minutes. Add the runner or string beans, zucchini and pasta and cook an additional 15 to 20 minutes. (If making ahead do not add the pasta now. When ready to serve, reheat the soup adding the pasta and cook according to package instructions.) Cool, uncovered.


Remove the lamb shank, separate the flesh from the bone, cut the flesh into small pieces and add the pieces to the soup. If the soup seems too thick (it should be thick), add a bit of boiling water and taste for salt.

Pistou and assembly


While the soup is cooking, prepare the pistou. In a large marble mortar, pound the coarse salt, pepper, garlic and basil to a liquid paste with a wooden pestle. Add the tomato and crush, pound, and stir until well mixed, then stir in the olive oil, adding it slowly. (Makes three-fourths cup).


Remove the soup pot from the heat and stir the pistou into the soup (wash out the mortar with a ladle of soup and pour it back into the pot). The pistou can also be spooned individually into each soup bowl. Lulu pours the soup into a heated, giant antique soup tureen and serves it at the table accompanied by the grated cheeses.

From “Lulu’s Provencal Table” by Richard Olney. Dried beans never have the finesse of freshly shelled beans, which are sometimes available in farmers markets. If fresh are unavailable, substitute one-half cup dried borlotti (cranberry) and one-half cup dried white beans. Rinse them under cold water and place them in a bowl. Cover with cold water by several inches and soak overnight. The next day, drain the beans, put them in a pot with fresh cold water and slowly bring to a boil. Boil for 15 minutes, drain and add to the soup with the onions and other vegetables.

S. Irene Virbila is a former restaurant critic and wine columnist for the Los Angeles Times. She left in 2015.
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