This vegetable soup from Jody Williams' cookbook, Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food, is impeccable—clean, light, and nourishing. It's a mountain of vegetables and beans thrown into a pot with water, salt, and pinch of red pepper. An hour of alchemy later, the veggies have softened and harmonized, and the water is a delicate, succoring broth.
So right now, what you have is very nice vegetable soup, lovely but not exactly exciting. But while the soup has been simmering, you've been turning a mound of basil, a good handful of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, olive oil, and a little salt into pistou, the French answer to Italy's pesto. You top a steaming bowlful with a dollop of the pistou, a drizzle of olive oil, and a grating more of cheese. Restorative perfection. It's the epitome of the harmony that can happen with a thoughtful collision of fresh ingredients.
Why I picked this recipe: This summer soup seemed to capture Buvette's spirit: rustic yet refined, accessible yet complex, folksy yet sophisticated.
What worked: In the classic Provencal soupe au pistou, there is usually pasta added to the soup, but I like the purity of this all-vegetable version. Williams also omits the traditional garlic from the pistou, which I wondered at but ended up appreciating; the basil and cheese are aggressive enough to enliven the soup without overwhelming it.
What didn't: This made a huge pot of soup, around 7 quarts, and there isn't enough pistou to afford every bowl "a big spoonful."
Suggested tweaks: I would go ahead and double the pistou. Worst case, you're left with extra to serve over grilled fish or meat, toss with pasta, or spread on a tomato sandwich.
Excerpted from the book Buvette by Jody Williams. © 2014 by Jody Williams. Reprinted by permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.