Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Ode to the Chickpea

Despite this depressing time in our economy, I must remind myself to be thankful for the little things in life. Not getting that speeding ticket (although I deserved it), warm socks from the dryer, the smell of bacon and the humble chickpea. I have a new love affair with the chickpea and particularly when I make this soup. This soup is sophisticated but frugal and I am one exotic yet sensible mama when I serve this for dinner. And since it's easy to stock up on chickpeas, I've thrown in an extra super simple salad recipe today as well.

Viva la chickpea!!

Spiced Chickpea Soup

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
1 large onion, medium diced
6 to 8 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 heaping teaspoon sweet paprika
1 (14.5-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
3 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed well
1 quart vegetable broth or reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon sugar
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 (5-ounce) package pre-washed baby spinach
optional - cubed sweet potatoes

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until the onions begin to turn translucent; lower heat if browning starts to occur. Add spices and saute a minute or so. Add tomatoes, chickpeas, broth, and sugar and sweet potatoes if using. Season with a couple pinches of salt and 10 grinds fresh pepper. Stir well. Chickpeas should be just covered with liquid. If level is shy, add some water so the chickpeas are just covered. Bring to a simmer, then lower heat to low and gently simmer for 45 minutes.

Remove soup from heat. Use immersion blender or a potato masher to mash up some of the chickpeas right in the pot. Stir in the spinach and let heat through until wilted, just a couple minutes. Season again, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve soup, drizzled lightly with extra-virgin olive oil, if desired.

Simple Chickpea Salad

1 can rinsed and drained chickpeas
couple of handfuls of arugula
fresh Parmesan cheese - shredded - to taste
juice of about one lemon
olive oil

Just toss together chickpeas, arugula and desired amount of cheese. Lightly spritz lemon juice over salad and drizzle with a bit of olive oil and salt/pepper to taste. Great served along side any grilled meat.

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