We may be a week into spring, the ground’s still frozen, the down jacket’s still on and comforting soup rather than seasonal salad is still the preference. Spring bean soup with pistou is the best of both worlds: white bean soup with seasonal ingredients such as leeks and kale with a pistou of fresh basil on top. The secret ingredient of miso and a Parmesan rind brightens the flavor so it looks and feels like spring with a winter heartiness to keep us warm just a bit longer.
Secret ingredient miso: Miso is probably most familiar as soup in Japanese restaurants, but it’s so much more. It starts as a thick paste that’s made from fermented soybeans imparting a salty, slightly sweet flavor that’s a terrific enhancer in almost any bean soup. The flavor varies by color with white miso being the mildest and most readily available. Whole Foods sells it in a plastic tub the refrigerator section.
Secret ingredient Parmesan rind: Who knew Parmesan cheese rinds could be so flavorful? The next time you’re ready to toss that old rind, save it to flavor broth then throw it out when the soup is finished. Many cheese counters sell rinds too for just this purpose.
About pistou: Pistou is like a French pesto consisting of fresh basil, garlic and olive oil. It’s quick and easy to make with countless uses such as a dipping sauce with crusty bread or in this case, a perfect finish dolloped on early spring bean soup.
- 1-cup (½ lb) dried white beans, soaked (or 2, 14 oz. cans beans, drained)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 leeks, trimmed and chopped
- 1-tablespoon white miso paste
- 1 Parmesan cheese rind
- 32 oz. vegetable stock
- 1/2 bunch fresh kale, chopped, 2 cups (preferably lacinato)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups loosely packed basil
- 1 garlic clove
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt to taste
- Bean soaking: Place beans in water, covered by 2 inches. The traditional way is to cover and soak 8 hours to overnight. The quick way is to boil for 1 minute and set aside for 1 hour. Either way yields the same results.
- Soup: In a large pot over medium heat, sauté leeks in oil until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add miso and cook 1 more minute. Add beans, cheese rind and stock then turn up the heat. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer. Cook about 1 hour until beans are tender. Remove and discard cheese rind. Add one more cup of water if soup is too thick. Stir in kale, season to taste with salt and pepper and cook 5 more minutes. Serve with a dollop of pistou.
- Pistou: In a food processor, combine basil, garlic and olive oil until smooth. Season to taste with salt. Spoon a dollop on top of soup.
Leave additional time for overnight bean soaking