Sitting on my couch, donning sweats and slippers, and watching college football.

Thinking about the next time I’ll be hungry.

It’s likely to be 2012.

Today was our last tailgate of the season.  Due to consistent run ins with poor weather, our plans to dine in style in our favorite College Park parking lot were thwarted several times in September and October.  Thus, our crew went all out for the Terps’ final home game today.  And though our team gave us nothing worth cheering about, the meal we ate afterward more than made up for it.

I had guacamole.

And two kinds of meat.

And chocolate cake.

But before all that could happen, I had to have soup.  Lots and lots of soup.

It’s good for you.

So I ate it all week long.

For lunch and dinner.

That’s how you prepare for a day of complete and total overindulgence.

This particular soup is from The Barefoot Contessa, whom I’ve missed terribly.  I hadn’t seen her show, nor cracked the covers of any of her cookbooks in ages.

Which would explain why I rushed into the soup-making process, forgetting that Ina’s soups always feed you, your family and a dozen or so of your closest friends if you make them as written.

Thank goodness I used my biggest pot.

And thank goodness there’s still a whole container-ful in the freezer.

Winter is coming, and soup is what winter is for.

This soup is not so much a recipe as an idea.  Saute some onions and carrots, add vegetable stock, and throw in whatever you have in the crisper.  I used Ina’s ingredients the first time around, but wouldn’t be afraid of dialing back the broth and adding some canned tomatoes with their liquid, next time.  The noodles could just as easily be swapped for barley or rice.  No matter what you add, you’re going to end up with something satisfying.

The highlight of the whole soup experience, however, was the pistou.  The margins of Barefoot in Paris taught me that pistou is like French pesto (also what I imagine saying “pesto” with a French accent would sound like).  It’s the same basil, garlic, olive oil mixture, but with tomato paste mixed in for good measure.  I thought spooning a dollop on top of each bowl would serve as a mere garnish, but it made such a noticeable difference throughout each slurp.

To make soup for 10, you will need:

*A head’s up that this is one of those recipes in which it is extremely useful to have ingredients chopped in advance.  But don’t feel like you have to.  I rarely do.

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 chopped leeks, white and light green parts
  • 1 pound potatoes, 1/2 inch diced (don’t bother peeling them, you’re making rustic food at its best)
  • 1 pound carrots, 1/2 inch diced (again with the peeling, just wash them)
  • 1 T Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 quarts vegetable stock (sure, use chicken stock)
  • 1 tsp. saffron threads (but only if your friend brought you some from her trip to Spain, otherwise it’s too expensive)
  • 1/2 pound haricots verts, ends removed and cut in half (or straight out of the Trader Joe’s freezer bag)
  • 4 oz. spaghetti, broken in small pieces

To make 1 C Pistou, you will need:

  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 C tomato paste
  • 24 large basil leaves (or thereabouts)
  • 1/2 C Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 C olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot (mine was probably an 8 quart-er), add the onions, and saute over low heat until onions start to brown.  Slow and steady wins the (flavor) race here.  Add leeks, potatoes, carrots, salt, and pepper, and saute over medium heat 5 more minutes.  Add stock and saffron, bring soup to a boil, and simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes.

While that’s going on, make pistou by combining all ingredients in a food processor, and setting aside.  The tomato paste didn’t glide through my mini food processor, making my pistou thicker.  I loved it that way, because I could see the bits of basil throughout the soup after I stirred it in.  Back to the soup.

Add haricots verts (unless you’re using frozen, and then add them 5 minutes before your soup is done) and spaghetti, bring to a simmer, and cook 10 more minutes.

When ready to serve, add a heaping tablespoon of pistou to each bowl.  Grate Parmesan on top if you so choose.

p.s….It’s almost embarrassing to tell you how much I love opening a new tube of tomato paste.  But I really do get a little thrill from breaking the foil seal.

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