Thoughts of summer soups often bring to mind something chilled to stave off the off the heat, but why shy away from a warm soup – I mean I’m not suggesting that it be bubbling hot. Summer Vegetable Soup is a light, bright tasting soup featuring the best of summer produce topped with a bit of aromatic basil paste. The local markets are overflowing with the colors of the season’s vegetable gardens just waiting to become part of this delightful soup. The ingredients for Summer Vegetable Soup are merely recommendation; select your favorite vegetables along with a good stock and you are on your way.
Spring onions are an excellent replacement for the traditional leeks or yellow onions, which are typical of a more wintery type soup. Fresh broad beans would have been a lovely addition, but none where to be found; instead I added some reconstituted dry beans which were wonderful (please don’t be embarrassed to use canned beans – time saver). Ditto for fresh peas with respect to locating some, which I really cannot understand, so some frozen peas joined the mix. The vegetables need only to be lightly sautéed to soften so that they retain that crisp sunny flavor before the stock is added. Keep all of vegetables the same general size to insure even cooking.
The basil paste is a combination of fresh basil leaves, garlic, & extra virgin olive oil with salt and pepper as seasoning. Not quite a pesto nor a pistou, basil paste compliments the vegetables without overpowering the vivid flavor of the soup. Any leftover basil paste is wonderful with sliced tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.
Placing day old or toasted peasant bread at the bottom of a soup bowl is typical of Cucina Povera; wasting not a crumb while creating a more substantial meal. Toast and season some hearty peasant bread with garlic & olive oil and lay a slice or two the bottom of warmed soup bowls before ladling Summer Vegetable Soup over the bread.
Once the vegetables are cut, there is actually little work involved. Add either chicken or vegetable broth, bring to a light simmer for a few minutes before taking a warm cupful from the pot. Add some basil paste to your liking and garnish with a fresh basil sprig. What are some of your favorite summer soups, something light & creamy, perhaps a gazpacho?
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- 3 small zucchini - washed, trimmed and diced
- 5 carrots - washed, peeled and thinly sliced into discs
- 4 spring onions - washed, trimmed of damaged outer layer, and diced
- Small bunch of thin asparagus - washed, trimmed of tough ends, and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1½ cup of fresh broad beans blanched or one 15½ ounce can of broad beans drained & washed
- 1 cup of fresh or frozen tiny green peas
- 4 Tbs. olive oil
- 8 cups of vegetable or light chicken stock
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 3 cups of fresh basil leaves, washed and dry
- 1 clove of peeled garlic
- ½ to 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Partial loaf of hearty peasant bread with a good crust, either several days old or fresh
- Clove of peeled garlic
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Heat the 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan which will accommodate the vegetables & stock over medium high heat. Add the sliced carrot discs and sauté for 3 minutes, add the asparagus and continue to sauté for an additional two minutes; stirring the entire time. Turn the heat to high and add the spring onions and zucchini; season the vegetables with salt and freshly ground black pepper and continue to sauté until lightly softened yet still retaining their bright colors. Remove from the heat and stir in the broad beans; set aside until ready to finish the soup.
- Place the basil leaves, garlic, ½ teaspoon of salt and freshly ground black pepper into the work bowl of a food processor; process using the pulse feature until the garlic and basil have been uniformly broken down, scrape down the work bowl as necessary. With the food processor running, slowly add the extra virgin olive oil in a stream to create a paste; the amount of oil may vary so stop the processor to check for consistency. Scrape the basil paste into a container, cover the top directly with plastic wrap, set aside.
- Slice the peasant bread into ½ slices. Toast the bread using a conventional toaster and while the toast is still hot, rub both sides with the garlic clove. Drizzle the toasted slices with some extra virgin olive oil and place on a rack to cool until needed.
- Place the pot of sautéed vegetables back on the medium-high heat, add the vegetable or chicken stock along with the peas and bring to simmer. While you are waiting for the soup to come to a simmer, place the toasted bread in the bottom of the soup bowls. Allow the soup to simmer for 2 minutes, then using a drinking cup ladle the soup over the toasted bread, initially taking mostly vegetables following with additional broth. Top each serving with a generous dollop of the basil paste and garnish with a spring of fresh basil