Tuesday Dinner: Soupe au Pistou

I’m starting to feel that urgency to get ready for winter. Most years, that means that I feel like making some peach jam or cleaning around the fireplace or washing all my sweaters. This year, I’m concentrating on the much more important task of getting a new roof; less hygge and more “winter is coming.” Priorities!

In the meantime, there’s soup. This week, soupe au pistou, a Provençal version of minestrone, full of late-summer vegetables and hearty with white beans. The “pistou” is French pesto, a gorgeously garlicky basil pesto that you stir into the soup just before you eat it. It’s not a difficult soup to make, but takes forever because of all that chopping. Five pounds of green beans, five pounds of zucchini, three pounds of sweet peppers, four huge bunches of Nantes carrots, a giant cabbage…it’s a very vegetable-y soup! Isn’t it lucky that making soup is one of my favorite ways to spend a day? And the result is worth it; not only is it delicious and healthy, we can also all feel good about eating it because it’s environmentally friendly. All the vegetables are local and it doesn’t contain beef or dairy, so we’re doing a good job of checking some of the “slow down climate change” boxes.

(Did any of you see that article by Jonathan Franzen in the New Yorker? He suggests that that we stop pretending that we could stop climate change, and instead start preparing for the inevitable catastrophe. It’s good, and he concludes with a mention of the Homeless Garden Project in Santa Cruz, my old hometown.)

I’m swimming in tomatoes right now—they’re coming from my parents’ backyard, the neighbors, and the CSA box I signed up for as a school fundraiser. Some are super delicious and get eaten in the car as soon as Cecilia gives them to me; some make it all the way home—we’ve been eating a lot of BLTs; others get turned into sauce or tossed into salads. Today, we’ve got tomato vinaigrette for our salad dressing. You can thank my sister Jennifer for that idea and recipe. She brought me her favorite Mauro’s salad last year and asked me to reverse engineer the dressing that she loved. Turns out that the beautiful pinky-orange color comes from tomatoes blended right into the dressing. Real autumn is just around the corner, but Adriana still has plenty of strawberries at the market. Whenever I buy a flat of berries, I have to put them on the bottom shelf of the “chef cart,” and leave Poppy to guard them when walk into another booth to shop. It’s surprising how many people at the market think the produce on the chef carts is for sampling! I used them in dessert this week in a version of strawberry shortcake. Instead of a biscuit base, I made an almond sponge cake. The nutty cake sets off the fruit, and there’s a lovely cloud of whipped cream to top things off.

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