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Fresh Shell Bean Soup with Pistou

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  • Servings: 4

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  • 2 pounds fresh cranberry beans, shelled (2 cups), see Note
  • Salt
  • 8 parsley stems
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 slice of bacon
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 medium celery rib, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 6 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
  • 2 medium tomatoes—peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 3 ounces thin green beans, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 8 large basil leaves
  • 1 small garlic clove, halved
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup diced (1/4 inch) crustless country bread
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. In a medium saucepan, cover the cranberry beans with 1 inch of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover partially and simmer the beans until almost tender, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and cook until tender, about 5 minutes longer; drain.
  2. Bundle the parsley stems, thyme sprigs and bay leaf in the slice of bacon and tie with kitchen string. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and cook over low heat until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the carrot and celery and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the cranberry beans, bacon bundle, stock, tomatoes and green beans and bring to a boil. Cover partially, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the chopped parsley, lemon juice and lemon zest and season the soup with salt and pepper.
  3. In a saucepan of boiling water, blanch the basil leaves for 5 seconds. Drain and rinse the basil under cold water. Squeeze dry and finely chop.
  4. In a mortar, pound the garlic to a paste. Add the basil and pound together. Stir in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the bread and cook over moderate heat until starting to crisp, about 2 minutes. Add the parsley and cook, stirring, until the bread is browned and crisp, about 3 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a plate.
  6. Reheat the soup and discard the bacon bundle. Ladle the soup into bowls and drizzle with the pistou. Serve at once, passing the croutons at the table.

Make Ahead

The recipe can be prepared up to 1 day ahead. Refrigerate the soup and pistou separately. The croutons can be stored overnight in an airtight container.


Any combination of fresh shell beans can be used. Cooking time will vary according to the variety of bean.

Contributed By Photo © Richard Jung Published July 2002

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