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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Aunt Suzy says . . .

Recently we had an early September cold snap and I immediately thought “soup!”.  I had some Parmesan cheese rinds in my fridge and had just made some chicken stock, so I thought “minestrone!”.  Not sure I’ve ever made it before, but I love soup with lots of vegetables.  I have a 1973 paperback of Marcella Hazan’s Classic Italian Cooking, so I started there.  I looked at many recipes for this classic Italian soup – as you might expect, there is no one set recipe.  Marcella’s included “meat” stock made from beef for which I substituted chicken stock.  It did not include meat as many recipes do.  I had some chicken sausages on hand and added those, although I think it would be delicious without.  I found her method of adding ingredients to the base one at a time interesting and unique to all the recipes I looked at.  (This is probably so you can chop the next ingredient while the previous is sauteing!)   This recipe made many meals, so I think it could easily be cut in half to serve 4 people with left-overs.  Enjoy with some crusty bread and a Chianti or Valpolicella!

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

2 yellow onions, sliced and cut in 1/4 rounds

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup diced carrots

1 cup diced celery

3 cups diced unpeeled potatoes, red or yellow

2 cups fresh green beans, cut in 1-inch pieces

4 cups cabbage, preferably napa, cored, quartered and cut crosswise in 1/4-inch slices

2 flavored chicken sausages, sliced in 1/4-inch half moons (optional)

7-9 cups chicken stock

1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes with their juices

1 teaspoon each dried oregano and dried basil, or to taste

1 teaspoon salt

black pepper to taste

2 15-ounce cans beans, cannellini or kidney or a mixture, drained and rinsed

1-2 parmesan cheese rinds (optional)

Cooked pasta, ditalini or small elbows (optional)

Grated parmesan cheese

Chopped Italian parsley

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven or soup pot.  When it shimmers, add the butter and stir to melt thoroughly.  Add the onions and saute for about 5 minutes until soft, but not browned.  Add each ingredient, garlic through sausages, one at a time and saute for about 2-3 minutes each, stirring constantly.  Next add the stock, the tomatoes and their juices, the herbs, salt and pepper, the cannelini and kidney beans and the parmesan rinds if you are using.  Adding more or less stock depends on whether you like your soup on the thick or the brothy side.  Stir to blend thoroughly.  Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for about an hour.  The vegetables will be cooked through but not mushy.  When the soup is finished cooking, remove the parmesan rinds.

To serve, put a little cooked pasta (if you are using) in the bottom of a soup bowl.  Pour the soup over the pasta. Pass the grated parmesan and parsley.

NOTE:  As with many soups, this only gets better after a day or two.  If you want to make this to freeze for future use, omit the potatoes.  I’ve found that they turn to mush in the freezer.  Cooked cubes of potatoes can be added later.