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Spring Soupe au Pistou With Toasted Pearl Couscous

The past week has been a bit...distracting. I imagine developing an app is a bit like any big project in that, when you're finally done, you sit back, expecting to feel a warm and satisfied feeling of accomplishment. Maybe you envision a bottle of champagne or a nice dinner, or maybe your needs are much simpler and high-fives all around would be enough.

But what really happens is you spend the next week brooding over sales numbers, Twitter, and the horrible nagging thought that you just spent the past three years working tirelessly on something that will fail miserably, and then you'll go back to working two jobs and constantly worrying about money. Well...maybe that's just me.

But that's pretty much what I've been busy doing for the past week: feeling great when the app is selling well, and feeling utterly destroyed when it's doing less well. I've also developed this problem (surely, there's a scientific word for it, or maybe a German word, since the German language is so brilliant at stitching words together) where I turn on my phone to check the weather, then spend the next 10 minutes checking Twitter and forgetting that I just wanted to look at my weather app. It's like waking up and not knowing where you are.

But I keep coming back to the realization that we did a crazy good job on the app. We worked until it was right, not just until it was done. This is why it took us three years to build. We weren't interested in just slapping something together to make a quick buck--we made it right. That knowledge gives me a great deal of satisfaction.

But now that I'm coming out of the surreal trance you enter after finishing a big project, I remember that I've been sitting on a great recipe--a recipe I intended to share with you--for two weeks. Two weeks is like a year in Internet time!

If you've never made soupe au pistou, it's high time you did. I suppose you could call it a French minestrone if the comparison helps you envision it. But at its core, it is a simple vegetable soup with pistou stirred in at the end. The primary difference between pesto and pistou is that pistou does not contain nuts. For my purposes, I made a pistou from carrot tops instead of basil, which works quite nicely if you buy carrots with the greens still attached.

Another small change I made to the basic recipe was to use toasted pearl or Israeli couscous instead of small pasta. Pearl couscous is pretty innocuous stuff on its own, but when toasted, it develops a rich, nutty flavor that enriches the broth. You can toast pearl couscous in the oven or on the stovetop. For the oven method, simply spread the couscous in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 375°F, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 to 15 minutes. On the stovetop, toast the couscous over medium heat in a dry skillet, stirring occasionally, until golden.

Feel free to use different vegetables depending on what you have. This is more of a springtime version of soupe au pistou, but you can adapt the recipe for the season, and use almost any kind of green to make the pistou--from the traditional basil to carrot tops to sorrel or arugula.

Other articles you might enjoy: One-Eyed Bouillabaisse, Asparagus and Ricotta Tartines, Spring Lamb Stew

Spring Soupe au Pistou With Toasted Pearl Couscous
Serves 6 to 8

First, make the pistou. This can be made up to several days in advance.
Combine in a food processor until finely ground:
           2 cups carrot tops or greens of your choice
           2 garlic cloves

With the machine running, add in a thin stream:
           1/2 cup olive oil

Stir in:
           1/3 cup coarsely grated Parmesan
           Salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste

For the soup, heat in a large soup pot over medium heat
            2 tablespoons olive oil

Add and cook, stirring, until tender:
           1 onion, chopped
           1 leek, halved lengthwise, cleaned, and chopped
           1 medium carrot (3-4 oz), chopped
           1 medium celery rib, chopped

           8 cups water
           1 small potato (3-4 oz), chopped
           2 teaspoons salt
          (Pinch of saffron threads)

Bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in:
           1 to 2 cups cooked cannellini, Great Northern, or white beans (if canned, give them a good rinse)
           1/2 cup pearl couscous, toasted (see above)

Simmer for 8 minutes, or until the couscous is just tender. Stir in:
           6 ounces zucchini, roughly chopped
           4 ounces asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
           3 to 4 ounces broccoli florets, cut into bite-sized pieces

Simmer just until bright green and crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.

Stir the pistou into the soup. Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold.

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