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Friday, July 12, 2013

Chickpea, Chard, and Porcini Soup

As a member of the baby boomer generation, I was raised on Campbell's soups which were a staple in my mother's kitchen and truth be told, in my own for many years before I started reading cookbooks. I never really liked them as soups. I thoroughly detested Campbell's vegetable soup, a concoction of extremely overcooked vegetables in water with globs of red grease floating on top. It ruined me on vegetable soups, I thought forever, until I started to try some recipes that are based on fresh vegetables. I cooked this soup this week since I have lots of chard in the garden. It is a good soup for those trying to reduce the amount of meat in their diets. 


Chickpea, Chard, and Porcini Soup

Adapted from:  River Cottage Veg  by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Serves:  4-6

1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
1 T butter
3 T olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 c tomato sauce or 1 (14-oz) can whole tomatoes, blended or chopped
1 (14-oz can) chickpeas, drained and rinsed 
1 sprig of rosemary, about 6 inches long
1 bay leaf
10 oz chard or spinach leaves, shredded, or coarsely chopped according to your preference
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

to finish: olive oil and parmesan cheese, goat cheese, or any other hard cheese

Soak the porcini in about 3 cups of warm water for 30 minutes. Remove the mushrooms with a slotted spoon, reserving the soaking water. Rinse the mushrooms briefly under cold water since they can be gritty. Allow to drain a bit and coarsely chop them and set aside.

Strain the mushroom soaking liquid through a sieve lined with paper towels into a bowl and set aside.

Heat the butter and oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat and sweat the onion for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are transparent and soft. Add the garlic and stir for a minute, then add the mushrooms and cook, stirring for another minute or so.

Add the tomato sauce or the tomatoes with their juice, the chickpeas, rosemary, bay leaf, reserved mushroom soaking liquid, and a few grinds of black pepper. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer gently for about 45 minutes. Add the greens and cook for a further 2-3 minutes for spinach or 8-10 minutes for chard.

If the soup seems too thick, thin it slightly with a bit of water, although don't add much or you'll dilute the flavor of the broth. Remove the rosemary and bay. Taste and season with salt and additional pepper if needed.

Ladle into bowls, drizzle some olive oil over the soup and shave over a few slivers of cheese with a vegetable peeler. Serve at once with crusty bread.

Notes from Colette:

You could substitute kale for the greens, if that is what you have.

The porcini can be expensive--a 1 oz pkg. can cost $4 to $5 on Amazon. But if you figure that meat to flavor a broth would cost a lot, too, maybe you'll find it easier to justify. Be careful of the kind of dried mushrooms you buy. Costco has a big plastic jar full of dried mushrooms, but when I examined them, it seemed apparent they were all stems and very few tops. Dried porcini are among the most flavorful mushrooms you can use in cooking so you get a big bang for your buck.

If you decide to substitute another kind of bean for the chickpeas, I suggest you wait to add them with the chard. Other beans may fall apart during the simmering step.

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