Recipe: Eric Ripert's Pistou Soup

I recently had the pleasure of sitting next to renowned chef Eric Ripert during a media lunch at his new Westend Bistro in the Ritz-Carlton. Ripert (above right in Westend's kitchen) was a charming and very down-to-earth host for the afternoon. He and chef de cuisine Leonardo Marino (above left) treated guests to some of the bistro's specialties, including ratatouille, macaroni and cheese with ham, and roasted chicken with bread stuffing.

We were also served a hearty pistou soup inspired by a recipe from Ripert's grandmother. The restaurant graciously shared it with Metrocurean. The soup is not on the menu, but it would make a perfect winter's night dinner at home. It's also a great recipe to keep around come summer when basil surpluses abound.

Eric Ripert's Pistou Soup
Serves 4

For the pesto:
3 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Parmesan

For the soup:
1/3 cup navy beans, soaked in cold water overnight, drained
1 (2-inch) piece of ham rind (optional)
1 bouquet garni
6 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup carrots cut in quarter-inch dice
1/2 cup fennel cut in quarter-inch dice
1/2 cup onion cut in quarter-inch dice
1/2 cup zucchini cut in quarter-inch dice
1 medium size ripe tomato, peeled, seeded and cut into quarter-inch dice
Fine sea salt to taste
Freshly ground white pepper to taste

For the pesto, make a paste with the basil, garlic and olive oil by pounding with a mortar and pestle or pureeing in a blender. Mix in Parmesan. Press plastic wrap directly onto the pesto and refrigerate. (The pesto can be made up to one day before serving.)

For the soup, place the beans, ham rind, chicken stock and bouquet garni in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the bouquet garni and ham rind and add all the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.

To serve, remove the soup from the heat and stir in the pesto. Divide among four soup bowls and serve immediately.