Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Pasta e Ceci

Yeah it's been a while, I know. I've been busy working on the website for the cooking classes I'm planning to resume later this year. Meanwhile, this soup was such a hit over the holidays I had to post it immediately so that friends would have a chance to try it themselves.
I got this from a book I purchased last year on one of my semi-annual scrummaging at Powell's Books up in Portland. It was a book put out by Williams-Sonoma simply titled Rome. We'd had a soup like this in Rome last Spring and thought it would be a good addition to one of our Italian-themed feasts.

Simmering the soaked chickpeas

Garlic and rosemary to flavor the cooking oil

When cooking chickpeas I always like to remove the scum...

... so the the resulting broth is clear

Sautéing the herbs

Yukon Gold potatoes sliced lengthwise...

... simmered in the tomatoes and oil...

... then mashed

Final mashup for the soup


For soaking the chickpeas:
1 pound dried chickpeas (about 2 1/4 cups)
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon baking soda
Water to cover

1 tablespoon salt
6 cloves garlic, crushed, divided
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
Salt and fresh-cracked black pepper to taste
Several fresh tomatoes, peeled, or 1 can (14 oz) of whole tomatoes
2 boiling potatoes, peeled, cut lengthwise into narrow wedges
1 small dried red chile
1/2 pound pasta (taglierini, penne, or the like)
1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

To prepare the chickpeas:
Yes you could conceivably use an equivalent amount of chickpeas from a can but if you really want the full flavor this soup has to offer, you have to use dried chickpeas as the broth is a huge part of the dish.
Rinse the chickpeas, place in a pot with water to cover by a couple of inches, the salt, and baking soda, and leave covered in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day, drain them, remove the garlic, rinse out the pot, then add the chickpeas back into the pot with a generous amount of cold water to cover. Add the salt, 2 of the crushed garlic cloves, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook, uncovered until the beans are tender. This could take anywhere from 40 minutes to 2 hours, depending upon their age. I'd recommend using beans you have purchased recently for the best results.
As the water starts to boil, a foam will build up, as shown in the photo above. Use a spoon to skim it off as it appears until the water is clear. This should take about 10 minutes or so.
When the beans are tender, drain them and save all of the cooking liquid as broth for the soup.

To make the soup:
As the chickpeas are cooking, heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and, once it has warmed, add the remaining crushed garlic and all of the rosemary. Cook until the garlic has reached a golden brown color. Pour the oil into a fine-mesh sieve over a soup pot and discard the garlic and rosemary. Add the tomatoes and their juice, the sliced potatoes, and the chile pepper to the pot. Season with the salt and pepper and place over low heat to simmer until the potatoes have softened, about 15 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the potatoes to a bowl. Mash them then return to the pot over low heat. Add the drained chickpeas and 1 to 2 cups of the reserved broth and bring to a simmer, allowing it to cook for 30 minutes. As the beans cook, continue to add more of the broth to keep the soup at a thin consistency. Season with salt as needed.
Meanwhile bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until very al dente, about 3 minutes short of the cooking time on the package. Drain and add to the soup to mix and cook for a few more minutes.
Top the soup with the parsley and serve. 

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