Chickpea and Swiss Chard Soup

Aunt Suzy says . . . 

This winter, Randy and I had what we called “Downton Abbey Dinner Date”.  We would record DA and I would cook a soup which we would have while we watched the latest installment, usually Wednesday evenings.  It was a lot of fun and  great to have warming soups during our coldest months. While I made a few standbys, I tried some new recipes including this one. Margaux had pinned this recipe a while back and while searching for something to cook it caught my eye. I thought it looked really good and that it would be a really quick weeknight meal. We made a number of adaptations to up the deliciousness, but still keeping fast and easy in mind.  How quickly you can make this is determined by how much you cook from scratch (chickpeas, e.g.) or how much you use canned/frozen ingredients.

Margaux says . . .

I don’t remember pinning this recipe, but I’m really glad Aunt Suzy brought it to my attention! I just made it last night and it was a hit with the whole family. My son loved that it was spicy, too…he’s very proud that he has a taste for spicy food. If you have someone in your family that is sensitive to spicy things, I would cut the red pepper flakes back to 1/4 tsp. I used fresh chard because I couldn’t find frozen in my grocery store, but I think using frozen is a great idea as a time saver, and I’ll be keeping my eyes out for frozen for the next time I make this.

Ingredients

5 1/2-6 cups cooked chickpeas (four 14-oz cans or 2 cups dried, cooked)

6-7 cups chicken stock, homemade or boxed (or Better than Bouillon no chicken broth for vegetarian)

3 tablespoons EV olive oil

1 onion, diced

1 carrot, small dice

1 celery rib, small dice

Swiss chard stems, diced (optional)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Bay leaf

Small Parmesan rind, optional

1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed and  leaves cut into 1-inch pieces or 1-2 bags frozen chopped Swiss chard (see above note about stems)

Salt & pepper

Cooked small pasta – elbows, fusilli or shells, optional (we like whole wheat shells)

Directions

If using dried chickpeas, cook according to directions. 2 cups dried will produce the amount  of cooked called for in this recipe. If using canned, drain and rinse.

Combine 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas and 1 cup chicken stock. Using a hand or regular blender, process until the texture is like oatmeal. Set aside.

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Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Add the onion, carrot, celery, chard stems, if using, and rosemary. Saute over medium heat for 5 or so minutes until softened. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices and the pepper flakes. Stir for a couple of minutes. Add the pureed chickpea mixture, the remaining chicken stock, cooked chickpeas, bay leaf and the Parmesan rind, if using.  The amount of stock you will use depends on whether you like your soups on the thick or thin side. Bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the Swiss chard and cook for another 10-15 minutes until cooked but not mushy. Remove the Parmesan rind and bay leaves before serving.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to directions until al dente.

To serve, place a little pasta in the bottom of the soup bowls and ladle the soup into the bowl. Serve with baguette if desired.

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Winter Vegetable Minestrone

Aunt Suzy says . . . 

The Wall Street Journal ran this article a few weeks ago on Minestrone, including 3 delicious-looking recipes.  I love making Minestrone and the message and recipes here expanded my thinking as to what this soup is all about.  I love the quote “But minestrone is, ultimately, a hyper-personal and hyper-seasonal chameleon of a dish, tailored to the current harvest and the cravings of the maker. This soup embodies better than any other the enviable Italian virtue known as sprezzatura: an artful effortlessness.”  When Randy and I were talking Sunday morning about what we’d like for dinner, he said he had bought the ingredients for this soup. I had planned to make roasted salmon, potatoes and broccoli, but given I had a cold, the Minestrone sounded way more appealing.  Plus I didn’t have to cook – what’s not to like?! We both had seconds of this! Like many “ugly duckling” soups and stews that we’ve posted before (like this, this this and this), don’t let the bland look turn you away – this is one delicious soup, made even better by the unusual pesto.

Guest chef Randy Tatum says . . . 

This recipe looked like an interesting use of seasonal ingredients, including celery root which I don’t cook with enough. I thought the soup could use even more winter vegetables, so I added rutabaga. I found this easy to make, even if it takes a little chopping. It’s one of those dishes that can really be flexible in terms of ingredients and quantities. Unlike Suzy, who always has flavorful homemade chicken stock in the freezer, I take a rather relaxed approach to creating a stock for my soups. It’s called Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base and is a more than acceptable substitute. I often use their “No-Chicken Base”, which tastes just as good but is vegetarian.  The pesto is indeed unusual and I agree that it really adds to the finished product. 

The Winter Vegetable Minestrone

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium celery root, peeled and cubed

1 large parsnip, peeled and cubed

1 large rutabaga, peeled and cubed

4-5 (or more) cups chicken stock (or Better Than Bouillon per their instructions to equal 4-5 cups)

2 bay leaves

1 15-ounce can white beans, rinsed and drained

1½ cups yellow split peas

4 (or more) cups shredded cabbage

1 small apple, peeled and cubed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the yellow split peas in a small saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Set aside. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Once oil is warm, add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent and just beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook till fragrant.  Stir in celery root, parsnip and rutabaga, cooking until fragrant, another 5 minutes. Add the stock, bay leaves, beans, split peas, cabbage and apple. Stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot and simmer gently until celery root, parsnips and rutabaga soften, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

The Pesto, Pasta and Final Assembly

8 ounces whole wheat pasta, small shapes (we used fusilli/spirals)

1 cup leafy greens – spinach, kale or chard (we used spinach), coarsely chopped

½ cup toasted pecans, chopped (we used roasted/salted)

¼ cup fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped

2 whole garlic cloves, peeled

¼ cup olive oil

Cook the pasta to al dente according to instructions.  Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, make the pesto. In a food processor, purée the greens, pecans, rosemary, whole garlic cloves, oil and a pinch of salt until mixture is reduced almost to a paste. Turn into a serving dish.

To serve, place desired amount of pasta into a soup bowl. Ladle as much soup as you want onto the pasta. Place a dollop of the pesto onto the soup and stir to blend. Enjoy!

Chicken Stock

October 16, 2010

Aunt Suzy says . . .

I like to have lots of chicken stock on hand in my freezer so that when recipes call for it, I don’t have to use store-bought.  Not that I have never used store-bought stock or broth, but I don’t like the taste or the texture of boxed or canned chicken stock when compared to homemade.  And it’s so easy to make!   You can use fresh chicken as the basis – backs/necks, pieces like wings/legs or a whole chicken if you want lots of  meat to use in a soup or to make chicken salad, etc.   Bones are important for flavoring the stock, so using boneless/skinless chicken doesn’t work so well.  Or you can start with a leftover roasted chicken carcass.  I prefer the fresh  for its lighter and cleaner taste, but I always make stock when I’ve roasted a chicken, making sure my freezer doesn’t run out!  This is best done as a 2-day process so that you can de-fat the broth.

Margaux says . . .

I’m totally like Suzy, and always like to have broth in my freezer.  I can’t believe that I used to not care!  There’s such a difference in flavor and texture.  I make recipes that call for whole chickens cut up at least twice a month, and always buy a whole chicken and cut it up myself so that I have the back, neck and wings to make broth out of.  I use a big All-Clad pot that has a big pasta basket in it, so that when the broth is done I can just lift the basket out with the vegetables and chicken.  Then I cool the stock in the pot overnight, skim it in the morning, and then I pour it through a sieve into containers…taking the big stuff out first eliminates splashes!

Simple Chicken Stock

Place the chicken base of your choice as described above in a large dutch oven or soup pot.   Add water to about 3 inches below the rim.  To this, add the tops off of one bunch of celery, two unpeeled carrots cut in 2-3 pieces and one unpeeled onion cut into 4 chunks.  Add 2 bay leaves, 2 dried chiles (optional), 1 teaspoon kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Salt and pepper are also optional if you want to wait to season whatever dishes you make with the stock.   Add more water to bring to about 1 inch from the rim of the pot.  I am using a 6-quart All Clad stock pot.

Bring to a boil which will likely take about 15 minutes.  I set a timer for 12 minutes and then watch the pot so it doesn’t boil over.  Speaking from experience, you do not want this to boil over and run down into your burner pans!!  Not a fun clean-up job.  When it has come to a boil, skim off the foam, then turn down the heat and simmer at a bubble for 1-1/2 to 2 hours.  Turn off the heat and let rest for about 15 mintues.  Remove the chicken from the pot and place in a bowl to cool.  (Once cool, remove the meat from the bones and discard the bones.)

Pour the liquid into a bowl (or bowls) through a strainer to strain out the vegetables.

Let the stock cool in the bowls, then cover with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, you will be able to skim off the fat that has risen to the top and somewhat solidified.   I use paper towels to do this.

Now you have defatted chicken stock that you can use immediately or place in pint or quart containers to freeze for use at a later date.

Aunt Suzy says . . . You can add all kinds of aromatics to the pot before cooking –  garlic, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, parsley, thyme, etc., etc.  I don’t add these things unless I will be using the stock immediately in a recipe where the flavors are compatible.  I stick to the celery, carrots, onion, bay leaves and pepper so that the stock has a more neutral taste.  This insures it won’t overpower or conflict with the flavors in the recipes where I use the stock.   Today, I got 5 quarts from this recipe that didn’t cost more than $5 total for the chicken backs/necks and the vegetables.  They sell home-made stock at two places in my nieghborhood for $7-9/quart!  Maybe I should go into the chicken stock biz :-).