Every year in the spring one of the first things I do is make a few dishes that are pure spring on a plate, or in a bowl as the case may be here. Vegetable soup aux pistou is a classic French recipe for vegetable soup, and one that’s perfect for celebrating springs bounty of green edible things.
The traditional recipes that I’m familiar with are usually along the lines of say, minestrone, in that it they uses a combination of vegetables, mostly from garden season: things like tomatoes, zucchini, potatoes, green beans etc. A spring version is really fun though, and a great way to drive home the green.
You could use all kinds of different combinations of spring vegetables, but I really like to try and get different flavors and textures into the mix, instead of say, using all leafy greens.
This version is 100% spring. Here’s what’s in it.
Wild Spring Vegetables
- Spring-dug wild parsnips
- Ramp leaves and bulbs
- Meat: turkey would be perfect but venison is what I had.
You can’t call a soup soupe aux pistou without the pistou. What’s pistou, besides being one of my favorite things to argue with other line cooks about, it’s basically pesto, but absolutely does not contain cheese. Once again, for posterity, pistou does not include cheese. That being said, using pesto is totally fine, just don’t call it pistou.
Spring Vegetable Soup with Ramp Pistou
- 3 tablespoons lard or oil
- 4 oz 1 cup sliced ramp bulbs and stems, or greens onions and a clove of garlic
- 12 oz ground venison*
- 4 oz roots like wild parsnip or sunchokes
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 4.5 cups meat stock or water
- 2 oz fiddleheads cleaned of papery husk
- 2 oz mixed greens of your choice like nettles
- 2 oz ramp leaves chopped
- ½ cup ramp pistou for garnishing
- Kosher salt to taste
- ¼ cup dried fava beans cooked, or ½ cup cooked, or use cooked beans of your choice
- Blanch the fiddleheads in boiling water for one minutes, then drain and allow to cool. Reserve the fiddleheads.
- Sweat the meat in the fat until cooked, then add the ramp bulbs and stems or other onions and cook for a minute more.
- Add the wine and reduce by half.
- Add the stock, parsnips, beans, a pinch of salt, bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the parsnips are tender, about 15 minutes.
- Add the fiddleheads, ramp leaves and nettles, cook until the nettles are wilted.
- Taste the seasoning and adjust for salt as needed, then serve in bowls garnished with spoonfuls of the ramp pistou.
Ramp Leaf Pistou
- 8 oz fresh ramp leaves washed and cleaned
- 1 heaping tablespoon sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup Smude's sunflower oil or another good tasting oil a decent extra virgin is fine too
- A dash of lemon juice optional
- Heat the oven to 350 or so, toast the sunflower seeds until they are aromatic and lightly golden, a few minutes. Cool and reserve.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil large enough to fit your fresh ramp greens. Cook half the ramp leaves just until they wilt in the water and turn bright green, a few seconds, then immediately transfer them to very cold water to chill.
- Remove the ramp leaves from the water and squeeze the water out with your hands or by placing them in a towel. Chop the blanched and raw ramp leaves together.
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine the chopped ramp leaves, toasted sunflower seeds, and oil. Begin the pureeing process by pulsing to break things up, then keep going until you get a smooth-ish paste.
- After pureeing, if the pesto isn't creamy, fluffy and light, drizzle in some more oil and continue to puree is smooth to your liking-it's ok if it's a little chunky. Double check the seasoning and adjust as needed, then refrigerate or freeze.
- If you want the pesto coarse, don't puree it completely--it's up to you. I often make it smooth since I'll be adding other garnishes to dishes when the pesto is used.
- A great way to preserve this is to fill ice cube trays with ramp pesto, freeze them, then pop out the cubes and freeze those for easy portioning, I like to use re-useable vacuum bags. Vacuum sealing the cubes will give the longest shelf life.
- The lemon is optional, but the citric acid helps preserve the color.