Thursday, August 31, 2017

Survivor Soup

What’s cooking? Chick Pea Soup with Tomato and Rosemary

The Kitchen Goddess was working on a post about hors d’oeuvres, but the topic began to seem frivolous in light of the difficulties so many friends and family are experiencing in the aftermath – and we hope it can now be considered aftermath – of Hurricane Harvey. So today’s post will be more focused on cooking during difficult times. Call it a Harvey Hangover remedy. And later this week, we’ll have a nice post about hors d’oeuvres.

In the South, where I grew up, there is no occasion that cannot be celebrated with food. Even tragedy – or maybe I should say especially tragedy – sends Southern cooks running to their kitchens in an all-out assault on pain, grief, and other forms of suffering. Succotash as succor.

Twelve years ago, in the aftermath of Katrina, I cooked gumbo for 160 people as a fund-raiser at our church in New Jersey. With rice made by the minister and his wife, garlic bread baked by the Committee on World Fellowship, and divine desserts brought by another member of the congregation, it became an astonishingly heartwarming effort that had everyone digging deep into their wallets. We sent the proceeds – $8,000 – to a small church we’d connected with in New Orleans.

These days, I don’t have the kind of kitchen such heroic efforts demand. Instead, I’ll give you a recipe for a terrific and terrifically easy soup that even those whose pantries may have been ravaged by the storm might be able to put together. Light but filling, it’s a good soup for any weather, with amazingly vibrant flavors. The secret is in the short cooking time. And sometime during the cooking or the eating or the clean-up phase, I hope you will take time to count your blessings –  however large or small – and send a contribution to the Central Texas Food Bank, which is a major player in the relief effort for the victims of Hurricane Harvey.

* * *

The author of this recipe is the creative and clever Amanda Cohen, chef-owner of a wildly successful vegetarian restaurant called Dirt Candy, in New York City. She is the first vegetarian chef to compete on Iron Chef America. Her cookbook, Dirt Candy: A Cookbook, is the first graphic novel cookbook to be published in North America.

Chef Cohen says this soup should take less than 30 minutes to make. I will confess that the first time I made it, I took about three hours. But that’s because I obsessed over the size of the cans – had to do an extra trip to the store to check the available sizes – then got completely sidetracked watching the team trials for this year’s world championships in bridge. Finally, I decided, Okay, fine, I’ll just do the math, then at least I’ll know how much to adjust the other ingredients.

The second time I made it, I used cup measurements, and was much happier. And now that’s done for you, so you should be able to breeze through the process.

Kitchen Goddess note: Flexibility is the key concept for this soup. The proportions aren’t strict, and neither is the rest of the recipe. You can try the dish with cannelloni beans or black beans or any other beans you like. You can substitute basil or thyme or tarragon or oregano for the rosemary – each will contribute its own distinct flavor. If you don’t have fresh, use dried. And if you want a slightly richer soup, try chicken broth instead of the water. This is a dish that’s meant to be quick and easy, so use what’s at hand in your kitchen. And for those of you in Houston and on the Texas Coast, I’ve put in parentheses various alternatives to the ingredients.

Chick Pea Soup with Tomato and Rosemary

Adapted from Amanda Cohen, chef-owner of Dirt Candy, in NYC.

Serves 4 (or 2, with seconds, as at my house).

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup diced red onions (Alt: yellow onions, or 3 tablespoons dried onion flakes)
¼ cup carrots cut in ¼-inch dice (Alt: parsnips or skip them entirely)
½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper (Alt: a small pinch of chili flakes or a dash of Tabasco)
2 tablespoons minced garlic plus 1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 9 cloves, or Alt: 4½ teaspoons of dried garlic flakes)
One 19-ounce can chickpeas, drained (about 2 cups) (Alt: cannellini beans, navy beans, black beans)
One 19-ounce can diced tomatoes (about 2 cups)
3 cups water (enough to cover)
1 large sprig of rosemary (6-7 inches long)
juice and zest of 1 lemon
¼ cup chopped parsley (Alt: 2 tablespoons dried parsley)
¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (Alt: Grana Padano or Pecorino Romano)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

In a small soup pot or large saucepan set over medium-low heat, combine the olive oil, onions, carrots, Aleppo pepper or chile flakes, and cook, stirring for 4 minutes or until the onions become translucent. Add 2 tablespoons of the garlic and continue to cook, stirring, for another minute. Adjust the heat to make sure neither the onions nor the garlic burn.

Stir in the drained chick peas and the tomatoes, and add the water. Drop in the rosemary.

Simmer the mixture for 15-20 minutes, then add the remaining tablespoon of garlic and simmer another 2 minutes. Turn off the heat; remove the rosemary from the soup and discard. Add the lemon zest and juice and the parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste.

If you prefer a thick soup, purée 2 cups of the soup in a blender, and add it back to the pot.

Serve with Parmigiano-Reggiano sprinkled on top. And invite a friend over to share.

Whoops! Looks like I forgot the Parmesan cheese...

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