Celebrate the new season: Spring Pesto Soup

March 23, 2011 in Appetizers, Gluten Free, Healthy Fare, Vegetarian Entrees

Spring vegetables with the rich flavor of pesto

This tastes like the essence of early spring, fresh and bright yet somehow also rich, with the nuttiness of the freshest pesto melded in. It was inspired directly by one of my favorite cookbooks of recent years, “Cooking for Isaiah” by Silvana Nardone. I present it here with some variations in the vegetables, the addition of pine nuts and some optional Parmesan, with a different cooking technique, but the essence is her inspiration, reminding me of the lovely Provencal soupe al pistou.

I already have no doubt that this is an immediate staple dish, to be replicated this time every year, as often as possible. It’s also a great phase one recipe for low carbers, and is easily vegan; the original had no dairy anyway, I just threw a bit in since I like my pesto this way -  it is just as delicious without.

And regarding the frugality of pine nuts: a little goes a long way. A friend happened to score a fantastic deal on them, so the indulgence was already a good value. Do try just a touch if you have them on hand, toasting them so as to bring out the maximum flavor possible.

SPRING PESTO SOUP

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 dozen asparagus, woody ends removed and chopped into approx. 1/2 inch slices
1 cup fresh peas (or frozen if not available; I just scored organic fresh ones at Costco)
4 cups baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped
4 ounces fresh basil, stems removed and also roughly chopped
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
extra salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat, then add the onion and saute until well-softened and starting to brown, about 6-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 2 minutes, then add the asparagus and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes (asparagus will brighten a bit). Stir in the peas and cook for just a minute or so (perhaps 3 or 4 minutes if cooking from frozen). Pile the spinach and basil into the pot – it will seem like way too much, but trust me, it’ll cook down.

Once greens have reduced, remove about half to 3/4 of the veggie mixture and transfer to a food processor. Blitz for 2-3 minutes, until almost smooth (or to desired texture), then transfer back to pot. You could also do this with an immersion blender, alas, mine is in storage. Anyway, here’s where you add the vegetable broth.

While the broth is coming up to temperature (you’ll want it to simmer for just about 10-15 minutes), toast your pine nuts in a small pan over medium heat. Shake the pan pretty much constantly – I almost always neglect them at just the wrong moment and end up with them almost burnt on one side. It doesn’t take long, so keep ‘em moving until they’re a nice toasty tan-brown. I crushed them up with a mortar and pestle, then stirred them in with the (very optional) Parmesan cheese, saving a few intact ones for garnish.Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly.

Eat and savor the return of spring, glorious spring!

Other soups to ring in the season:

Spring Leek and Lemon Soup from The Kitchn
Asparagus Soup from Eating Cleveland
Spring Pea Soup from Chez Us
Spring Vegetable Soup from Albion Cooks

– posted by Anne

 

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