pureed chickpea soup


We’ll just make a general understatement today and tell you that I am still recovering from this weekend.  For some reason I agreed to host both sides of our families for an Easter lunch (and, also, for some reason, I have agreed to let this become a new tradition).  Gerrit and I spent all of Saturday preparing.  It was a good excuse to get some cleaning done and put away some things we’ve let sit around for a little long (like the pictures that have been lying in our living room floor since we moved in).  It was also a good excuse to make an ambitious cake, something I will tell you about later this week, but for now I need a little recovery time.

So in the meantime let’s talk about soup, and how generally I don’t like it too much, but for some reason felt the need to make this one.  Probably because it is pureed and made with chickpeas, both of which generally equate to bland uni-flavored things, which I tend to like.  But this soup has enough depth of flavor to appeal to anyone, whether you like bland foods or not, with bacon pureed into it and garlic and carrots and onion, all those classic soup flavors, disguised enough by the fact that it’s chickpea soup that even I will slurp it all up.

And let’s be real.  What makes this soup divine is really the croutons, cooked in a pan deep with garlic and rosemary oil until they are crispy and rich.  And I didn’t want to take a bite of my soup without one.  I am not normally one to mix my foods (Croutons on the side please, so I can fully enjoy their flavor.)  But these croutons give the soup a needed bite, and while they are perfectly heavenly on their own, you’d also be remiss to have your soup without them.  So while we’ve found a great soup recipe here, what we’ve also really found is my future go to crouton recipe.  And since I don’t tend to do salads, I guess we’ll have to find some other uses for them then, hmm?

Pureed Chickpea Soup
adapted from Anne Burrell

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Wait Time: 8 hours

1 lb. dried chickpeas
Olive oil
¼ lb. pancetta or bacon (about 3 slices of thick cut bacon), cut into ½ inch pieces
1 large onion, peeled and diced
2 celery ribs, cut into ½ inch pieces
1 large carrot (or 2 smaller carrots), peeled and cut into ½ inch pieces
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 quarts (8 cups) chicken stock
1 bundle fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves)
3 bay leaves
1 quart (4 cups) water

For the croutons:
3 sprigs rosemary, finely chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves)
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
Country bread, or baguette, cut into half inch cubes
½ cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

1. Begin by soaking the chickpeas overnight.  Fill a large pot with water and add chickpeas.  Just let them sit out overnight, at least 8 hours.  In the morning, if you don’t plan on making the soup until evening, drain the chickepeas and place them in the fridge for the day.  Before beginning the soup, drain and rinse chickpeas and set them aside.
2. Coat the bottom of a large stock pot or dutch oven with about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Place pot on stove over medium heat and add pancetta (or bacon).  Cook, stirring occasionally, until pancetta becomes crispy, about 5-7 minutes.
3. Add onion, celery, carrots, and a small pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.*  Season with a pinch of salt.  Cook vegetables, stirring occasionally, until they are tender, about 6-7 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for 1-2 more minutes.
4. Add chickpeas to the pot.  Add chicken stock, thyme, bay leaves, and water.  Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat, and then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until chickpeas are very soft and falling apart, about 1 ½ to 2 hours.
5. Turn the heat off and season the soup with a pinch of salt.  Let soup stand for about 15-20 minutes.
6. To make the croutons, pour olive oil in a skillet and heat over medium heat.  Add garlic, rosemary, and crushed red pepper flakes.  When garlic begins to brown, remove garlic from pan.  Add the bread cubes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are crispy and golden brown, about 2-3 minutes.  Season with a pinch of salt.  Use a slotted spoon (or tongs) to remove the croutons from the oil and place them on a paper-towel lined plate to drain away some of the excess oil.
7. Pour the remaining oil from the pan into the soup.  Remove the bay leaves and thyme bundle.  Puree the soup using a food process, blender, or food mill.  If the soup is too thin, return it to the pot and continue to cook it to reduce it.  If it is too thick, add more water or stock.  Taste soup and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
8. Serve soup warm, topped with croutons.

*The first time I made this I put entirely too many red pepper flakes (at least for my taste) and could hardly stand to eat it.  So be careful here.

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