Emily’s Special Chickpea Soup
One of the many good things that this blog has brought into my life is my friend Emily. She and I met about 2 years ago, when she stumbled across my recipe for Lemon-Scented Quinoa with Asparagus (on a hunt for ways to use up her bumper crop of homegrown asparagus) and, upon discovering that I was also in the Ithaca area, asked if I wanted to meet for coffee. Ever have a friendship “blind date?” Well, Emily and I really hit it off and I’m so happy to have her in my circle of friends. Besides being just as avid a cook as I am (we all need someone to dissect meals and recipes ad infinitum with, don’t we?), she and her husband have created the kind of gardens I dream of: sprawling rows of vegetables, fruit trees, long hedges of raspberry and blueberry bushes, asparagus beds, gorgeous flowers and herbs, and a sunken patio under a mammoth maple tree. Yes, it’s pretty heavenly.
Early in December, I asked Emily if she’d be interested in writing a guest post for my blog that I could post when I was taking a respite from blogging while I spent time with the baby. Let’s ignore the fact that it’s now almost four! months! later! (yikes) and I am just getting my act together to tell you about the recipe she shared with me. Emily’s chickpea soup has become a regular in my current kitchen rotation; I’ve been on a chickpea bender lately and have already made it at least four times since the baby arrived – it is that easy – but it’s also the kind of dish where the sum total is more than each individual part. Here’s what Emily has to say about her soup:
“A few months ago I ordered chickpea soup at an Italian restaurant in New York City, and it was so good I nearly licked the bowl! On my way out, I complimented the chef and asked what kind of stock he used in it…the soup tasted so rich I figured it had to be either dark chicken stock or maybe veal stock, but imagine my surprise when he told me he used vegetable stock! Now normally I’d ask “why use vegetable stock when chicken stock will make it better?” But in the spirit of trying to recreate the original I used vegetable stock, and was amazed at how much flavor this soup has without meat, and with so few ingredients!”
The soup is especially delicious with some torn spinach stirred in, which makes it a great “bridge” soup for this time of year — using pantry staples like canned chickpeas and stock, but also some early spring greens. We had a tease of warm weather a few weeks ago, but have now landed squarely back in the realm of drippy, chilly March. But, the one thing that comforts me as I wait for spring is the extension of soup weather — and staying warm inside, watching the rain with a bowl of Emily’s soup makes for a pretty lovely lunch.
Emily’s Special Chickpea Soup (Zuppa de Ceci, inspired by the version at I Coppi in the East Village)
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more to drizzle on top when serving
1 leek, halved lengthwise and cut into thin strips [Amy’s note: I’ve also used onion and shallots.]
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
a splash of white wine (optional)
4 cups vegetable broth or stock*
1 19-oz can of chickpeas
10-12 fresh sage leaves, chopped
Salt & pepper and a pinch of cayenne to taste
* Emily makes her vegetable stock with the tough green part of the leek for this recipe along with a carrot or two, some celery, parsley, garlic, and some potato peelings, all covered by water and cooked with a little salt until their flavors are extracted.
Sauté leek in the olive oil in heavy soup pot, then add garlic and let soften for a minute or two. Add tomato paste and cook for a few minutes, letting it caramelize a little on the bottom of the pan. If you’re using the white wine, deglaze the pot with a splash of it, then add the stock and scrape up all the caramelized tomato paste. Add the chickpeas, sage, and some fresh ground pepper and simmer for about 25 minutes until the leeks and chickpeas are very soft. Add salt to taste. Puree as much as desired [Amy’s note: Emily says that at the restaurant this was a completely smooth soup, but she likes to leave it only partially pureed for texture; I like to puree it completely smooth.]
Serve each bowl with a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil and some freshly ground parmesan.