Sometimes you just need some comfort food; something simple and wonderful and good enough to warm your soul.
Well, you're in luck.
Elegant enough to serve company, this is what I reach for when I just need some deep down warmth.
Vegetarian recipe: Soupe au Pistou
(Vegetable Soup with Basil and Garlic)
This is from the wonderful Simple French Food by Richard Olney
for the soup
2 medium leeks, white and tender green parts finely sliced crosswise
6 oz. sweet onion, finely sliced
6 oz. carrots, peeled, split, woody core removed, finely sliced
12 oz. potatoes, peeled, quartered lengthwise, sliced
10 oz. pumpkin-type squash, seeded, peeled, coarsely diced
1 lb. (before shelling) fresh white beans (or the equivalent of precooked dried beans)
Bouquet garni: celery branch, parsley, bay leaf, thyme
2½ qt. water
6 oz. fresh green beans, tips snapped, cut crosswise into approximately ½-inch lengths
2 or 3 small, firm zucchini (about 8 ounces), cut into ¼-inch slices
1 cup short or “elbow” macaroni
for the pistou
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
1 packed handful fresh basil leaves and flowers
Pepper, freshly ground
1 cup Parmesan, freshly grated
1 medium-sized, firm, ripe tomato, peeled, seeded, and cut into pieces
1¼ cups olive oil
Add leeks, onion, carrots, potatoes, squash, white beans, and the bouquet garni to salted, boiling water and cook, covered, at a light boil for about ½ hour. Test the beans for doneness and, if necessary, cook a bit longer, or until they may be crushed with little resistance while remaining still completely intact. Add the green beans, zucchini, and macaroni, and cook another 15 minutes until the pasta and green beans are done but not mushy.
While the soup is cooking, prepare the pistou: Pound the garlic, basil, salt, and pepper to a paste in a good-sized mortar, using a wooden pestle and alternating between pounding and turning with a grinding motion. Work in some cheese until you have a very stiff paste, then add about one third of the tomato, pounding and grinding to a paste, more cheese, a bit of olive oil, more tomato, and so forth, the final addition of cheese bringing the consistency to that of a barely fluid paste. Add the remainder of the olive oil slowly and progressively, turning the while. It will not produce a genuine emulsion and should not.
Serve the soup boiling hot, with the mortar of pistou at the table. Each diner stirs a small ladleful (1 or 2 tablespoons) into his soup.