Wednesday, March 13, 2013

chickpea soup

Every once in a while I see a recipe that makes me drop everything to buy ingredients and make it immediately.  I'm sure some of you can relate to this—flipping through a magazine or cookbook with pretty, pretty pictures, hearing the siren song of some delicious braised this or sauteed that, and heading straightaway into the kitchen like a cook possessed.  For me, this is especially true when those pictures contain one of the following: crispy potatoes, oozy caramel, butternut squash, or melted cheese, melted cheese, melted cheese.

 Then occasionally, I'll feel the call of a recipe that I just can't explain, which is what randomly happened with this chickpea soup.  What?  A soup the color of that cakey, sedentary cave mud from the last time I went spelunking?  From the Bon Appétit issue featuring the most annoying interview ever?  An entirely healthy pot of virtuous nutrition?  Yes. That one.  I want to make that and eat it RIGHT NOW.

Well, fine.  Anyone who has heard me talk about these can testify that I've never being one to argue with a craving, healthy or no.  Now, if we were to do some free word association with "chickpea," I bet most of you would come up with "lemon" or "garlic" or "tahini."  At the very least, you might answer "hummus," which is the blissful combination of all of the above, destined for pita chips and baby carrots everywhere.  But I think what appealed to me about this soup is that it couples those typecast legumes with some onion, a glug of white wine, crisp-tender broccoli, and fresh tarragon.  And just like that, this pigeon comes out of its hole.

The soup is earthy and filling.  Its flavor reminded me of mushrooms (which for me, is a good thing).  I recommend some very good quality vegetable broth, but other than that, these ingredients are remarkably unfussy.  It could even be a weeknight soup, if you have canned chickpeas.  So forget the hummus, and don't look back.

Chickpea Soup
Serves 4 as a main course
Adapted from Bon Appétit

1½ cups dried chickpeas, or 3 15-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
sprigs fresh thyme
½ cup dry white wine
Juice from 1 lemon
4 cups vegetable broth
Fine-grain sea salt, to taste
1 bunch broccoli, stems removed, cut into small florets
Fresh tarragon leaves (for garnish)
Freshly ground black pepper (for garnish)
Fine olive oil (for garnish)

1. If you decide to use dried chickpeas, they'll need to soak overnight: place them in a bowl and add water until the chickpeas are covered by a couple of inches. The next day, drain the chickpeas.  Otherwise, canned chickpeas are fine, and more time-friendly, too.

2. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and lemon juice and bring to a simmer, then add the chickpeas and cook until the wine has reduced a bit, 2-3 minutes. Add the vegetable broth and return to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the chickpeas are very soft, 1½-2 hours for dried chickpeas, or about 30 minutes for canned. Toss out the thyme sprigs.

3. Purée your soup with an immersion blender, or by working in batches with a standing blender.  If the soup is too thick, add a few tablespoons of water as needed. The soup should be very smooth.  Season with salt. 

4.  Meanwhile, boil a large pot of salted water and cook the broccoli until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and rinse the florets under cold water to stop them from cooking.

5.  To serve, divide the soup among bowls, mound a portion of broccoli on top, and garnish with tarragon, freshly ground black pepper, and a few drops of olive oil, if desired.

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