Few scents evoke an emotional response like that of bread as it rises to perfection in a hot oven. Taste buds awaken, eyes widen, stomachs rumble,...
With the weather turning quite chilly here on the east coast, I crave the simple pleasures of the season - the comforting aroma from a pot of soup simmering on the stove; an afternoon curled up near a fire with a good book or my sweetie; good conversation shared with friends over a long, lazy evening at the dinner table.
A drizzly fall day kept me sheltered inside this past weekend and was the perfect day to put up a pot of stock to slowly simmer away on the stove for hours. A peek inside the fridge revealed a huge bowl of freshly soaked chickpeas and some Tuscan kale hoping to be put to good use. Lunch and dinner were born. First a confession – I have not always loved chickpeas.
In fact, I hated the little beasts growing up - the taste being way too pasty for my liking. Yet despite my whining, my mother put chickpeas in absolutely everything. Luckily for me, my whining ceased. I grew to love my little friends. I now find myself craving their delicious creamy texture. Their versatile nature lends itself perfectly to use as a backdrop upon which to layer so many flavors and textures.
Lunch was a quick but soul-satisfying bowl of chickpeas simmered in my almost-done broth. A touch of lemon and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil was all that was needed to elevate my little creation to star status. Dinner was a tasty combination of sausage, tomatoes, chickpeas and kale simmered into a tasty and hearty meal.
So break out that bag of dried chickpeas and give them a good soak overnight. You will have a tasty pot of goodness from which to create a meal that will satisfy the soul.
Chickpea, Sausage and Kale Soup
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound sausage
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
About 4 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups of dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
1 bunch of Tuscan kale
1. In a medium-sized dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook until browned all over, turning occasionally. The sausage does not have to be cooked all the way through as it will finish cooking in the soup. Remove the sausage to a bowl. Drain off all but a few tablespoons of oil.
2. Add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and bay leaf. Stir to combine. Sauté until the garlic is fragrant and soft – about another minute. Add in the diced tomatoes and chicken stock and stir to combine. Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes to allow the tomatoes to break down a bit. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
3. Add in the chickpeas. Slice the sausage into rounds and add the sausage and any drippings to the pot. Bring to a simmer and allow to simmer until the chickpeas are tender and creamy – about 1 hour.
4. Remove the bay leaf (or it will be difficult to find once you add in the kale).
5. Clean the kale. Remove the stems. Cut the leaves into long ribbons. Add to the soup and stir to incorporate. Allow the soup to simmer for another 15 minutes to allow the kale to soften. Adjust seasonings and serve.
Simple Chickpea Soup
2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced fine
2 small cloves of garlic or 1 large, diced
About 4 cups stock (pick your favorite; use homemade if at all possible but if you can’t, pick a good quality broth)
Salt; freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1/2 lemon (optional)
Grated parmigiano (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle on top before serving (optional)
1. Heat the olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add in the onion and sauté until translucent and tender – about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and sauté just until fragrant and soft – about another minute.
2. Add the chickpeas to the pot. Add broth until the chickpeas are submerged about 1 inch. Bring the soup to a boil over medium heat then reduce to low and simmer. Allow the soup to simmer until the chickpeas are soft – about 1 hour.
3. Season with salt and freshly grated black pepper. (If you wish, you can puree some of the chickpeas and add them back into the pot for a thicker soup. You can add additional broth if it becomes too thick.) Add in the juice of the lemon and stir to incorporate.
4. Serve the soup in warmed bowls. Sprinkle with parmigiano or drizzle with some good quality olive oil.
Joe and Michele Becci are a brother and sister team who love all things Italian. Together, from opposite coasts, they co-author the blog OurItalianTable.com.