Santa Barbara is home to quite a few celebrities, and you often catch a glimpse of someone that looks sort of familiar at the grocery store or the coffee shop. For the longest time, I had a constant celebrity sighting: Miss Julia Child. In her last years she lived less than a mile from my home and I would always see her out and about— at the farmers market, at Pane E Vino, the Wine Cask, in the upper village, in the lower village…every time I saw her it gave me butterflies.
I’m not a shy person — this is the girl that cornered Martha Stewart at a party last spring, much to my husband’s embarrassment. I love meeting new people and connecting over shared passions. But I regret to this day that I never went up and simply said hello to Julia. I was too intimated; she meant too much, she was after all, Julia Child.
In honor of her 100th birthday, I’m sharing a classic recipe from Miss Child that exemplifies the summer season and her flair for flavor. Santé Julia!
Soupe au Pistou
This is my variation of Julia Child’s recipe in The Way to Cook. I made the changes because of what I had on hand (and what I didn’t)– the result was still delicious.
The soup base takes about 40 minutes to cook. Don’t get discouraged by the fact that there is a lot to chop up here (chopping can be therapeutic, I swear!) Just turn on some music and enjoy.
Ahead-of-time note: May be prepared in advance; bring to room temperature uncovered, then cover and refrigerate. Bring to the simmer before proceeding
Makes 6-8 servings
For the soup base:
3 quarts water
2 tablespoons salt
2 cups peeled and diced carrots
2 cups peeled and diced “boiling” potatoes
2 cups diced white part of leeks and/or onions
2 cups of cooked or canned white beans and their juices
1/3 cup small pasta shapes
2 cups diced fresh green beans
2 cups diced fresh zucchini
2 cups diced red bell pepper
In a 4-6 quart soup kettle, place the listed ingredients, bring to the simmer, skim off scum for several minutes, then cover partially and simmer until the vegetables are tender.
Final additions—10 to 15 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients to the simmering soup and continue simmer for ten minutes. Stir in a little boiling water if the soup seems too thick. Carefully correct seasoning and the soup is ready for the pistou.
While the soup base is simmering, make the pistou sauce.
With a teaspoon-sized spoon, top each bowl filled with soup with a spoonful of the pistou. Serve at once, accompanied by French bread or hard-toasted croutons.
Makes about 1 ¼ cups
4 or more large cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
pinch of red chile flakes
½ cup fruity olive oil
Incorporate the garlic and salt with a mortar and pestle, or the back of a wooden spoon, to a fine paste. Then mash in the basil. Next, blend in the cheese, tomato paste and add the red chile flakes. Finally, with a wire whip, whisk in the oil by dribbles to make a thick paste.