Saturday, March 7, 2009

Those in-between days

I did not mean to be absent for so long. I had a grand and well-intentioned plan to share an interestingly-titled dish, "naked ravioli," with you earlier this week. But as gorgeous as it looked in the cookbook and as unique its moniker, the final result -- while alarmingly delicious -- amounted to little more than a bowl of ravioli filling.

A tasty bowl of ravioli filling, to be sure, but not the kind of recipe that is easily shared. It just didn't work and I couldn't, in good faith, pass it along to you.

So a few days passed, post-less, until Saturday arrived. I woke up this morning to driving rain on the roof, which -- though it makes for muddy, muddy dog paws -- is a nice change of pace from the past few frigid, snowy months. I peered out the bedroom window at the water gushing over the gutters and spied a squirrel clinging desperately to one of the smaller branches on the huge old oak in the front yard. It seemed like a good day to stay inside and make soup.

So I sought out an old friend, Mollie Katzen, whose The Enchanted Broccoli Forest was the first cookbook that I purchased on my own as a real-life, cooking adult. It is a gorgeous book and if you're not familiar with it, I strongly encourage a trip over to Amazon. I love the hand-written and -illustrated pages; they make every vegetarian recipe in the book look like The Most Delicious Recipe You've Ever Seen. The narrative at the beginning of the book is peppered with useful categories of advice, titled with such quirky phrases as "questions and answers pertaining to technicalities of baking bread" and "a pep talk for wilted saladmakers." So informative, so charming.

Galician garbanzo soup is illustrated with the cutest little precise illustrations of chickpeas. There is also a drawing of a little cube, around which stretch the words, "actual size of diced whatever." Since I've been eating a ton of chickpeas lately -- every dish I make seems loaded with the little beauties -- this soup seemed like a perfect lunch for this rainy Saturday. And it was. Husband and I lapped up the hearty soup and even my Dad, who rang the doorbell at about 3:00 for a short visit, uttered the following statement before he even said hello: "Saffron. I smell saffron." Mother later clarified: "No, he's smelling cumin." She certainly knows more about him than he does.

Dad could have been smelling either, because this colorful soup contains both. An interesting mix of spices elevates what could otherwise be an ordinary bean and vegetable affair into something very tasty and unique. Perfect for those in-between days that aren't cold but aren't hot. Perfect when the rain pelts against the windows.

I bet that squirrel wishes he had a bowl.


Adapted from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, by Mollie Katzen

This soup would be great with chicken or turkey stock substituted for the water. However, given the vegetarian spirit of Broccoli Forest, I decided to leave well enough alone.

3 15-oz. cans of chickpeas
4 1/2 c. water
2 T. olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 heaping c. chopped onion
6 garlic cloves, minced and divided
1 potato, diced (about 1 1/2 c.)
2 medium carrots, diced
2 stalk celery with leafy tops, diced
1 1/2 t. kosher salt
1 bay leaf
1 t. dry mustard
2 t. ground cumin
1/4 t. saffron
2 t. dried basil
1/4 t. freshly-cracked black pepper
1/8 t. cayenne
1/2 c. peas (fresh or frozen)
3 T. red wine vinegar
1 medium-size tomato, peeled, seeded and minced

Drain and thoroughly rinse the chickpeas. Place about 2/3 of them in a food processor with 2 c. of the water. Puree and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the onion, half the garlic, potato, carrot, celery and salt and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the chickpea puree, the remaining water, chickpeas plus all the seasonings. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the remaining garlic, peas, vinegar and tomato. Simmer about 5 minutes more and serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a big hunk of bread.

Yields 6 servings.


ARLENE said...

I'll bet this was delicious. I love ceci, too. Ever had them roasted? I'm curious about the "naked ravioli." What kind of filling?

Dianne said...

Thanks, Arlene. It is a yummy soup. Roasted ceci...I have seen several beguiling recipes for them but have yet to try them. I'll have to get on that!

I *really* wanted the naked ravioli to work. It was a filling of ricotta, Pecorino, egg, spinach, Swiss chard and nutmeg. You roll little balls of the filling in flour, then blanch before tossing them in a skillet with browned butter and sage. Completely delicious, but the little balls just didn't hold together, no matter how many ways I tried it. I kept the filling, though, and have been tossing spoonfuls of it in bowls of rigatoni with marinara. Also quite tasty.