Soupy Rice, Kale and Lentils

After a string of sexy (or at least sweet and boozy) recipes, I’m bringing this blog back down to earth with the most mundane of dishes. Rice, kale, lentils, and broth. Could anything sound more ho hum? I can’t even describe this dish as a soup since, even if it starts out soup-like on day one, by day two the rice and lentils have slurped up so much of the broth that it has transformed itself into more of a risotto. So, here we are. It’s a very gray, very cold February. The roads are slushy and our food is soupy and also kind of gray.

That said, if you can get past this dishes indeterminate name, boring list of ingredients, and none-too-flattering photographs, I think you will be pleasantly surprised. I know I was.

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I had absolutely no intention of writing about this dish. I just wandered into the kitchen hoping to use up the kale that was slowly wilting in the refrigerator and warm up our drafty apartment. I didn’t write down what I was doing, just chopped up an onion, scrounged up the lentils and rice, and washed the kale hurriedly while the onion was browning. But, then Noah got home and yelled, “What are you cooking? It smells amazing.”

Then I took a bite, and, well, it’s much more complex than I expected. It’s got the umami-ish depth that comes from melting anchovies into your food. The wine gives it some tang (more so if it is edging its way toward vinegar as mine was). The lentils are toothy and make a bowl of this feel healthy enough for lunch even while the arborio rice makes it feel bone-sticking enough for February. I scribbled the recipe down on a napkin, but I’m moving it here for safe keeping. I’m sure I’ll be making more before the winter is over.

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Lemony Italian Chickpea Soup

Guys, it’s been four whole months since I posted a chickpea soup recipe. I don’t know how you’ve survived this long.

In all seriousness, I recognize that posting two chickpea soup recipes in a year (and really three recipes for pureed chickpeas) might be a sign that I am not thinking enough about what other people want to eat in selecting these posts. I can’t help it.

To me chickpeas are one of the most primal foods. A good bowl of chickpeas feels timeless and connective the way a good loaf of bread does. And, while it is probably true that I only feel that way because I’m crazy, or because I was fed a lot of chickpeas at an important, but repressed moment in my childhood, it is also true that people have been eating chickpeas basically forever. (At least according to Wikipedia, which, obviously, is our most reliable historical source and certainly the only source that I am trained to use.) 

In any case, I like to to think that as long as people have been eating chickpeas, they have been eating chickpeas prepared this way. Tragically, my historical training kicked in long enough for me to check Wikipedia to see when lemons showed up in our diets, and it seems like they may be a significantly more recent addition than chickpeas so there goes that fantasy.

Ok. Enough bad history. My very simple chickpea soup: This recipe was given to me the way all simple recipes should be, orally, over dinner, while we ate it. My parents had a friend visiting from Italy and she made it for us one night when I was visiting too. The soup consists of whole chickpeas in a thick chickpea broth scented with lemon, leeks, and nothing else.

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Robin’s Smokey Coffee Black Bean Soup

Not to state the obvious, but you know what’s fantastic? Having friends who can cook. I’m on a bit of a college-reunion tour this month and have spent a chunk of every week with friends who are excellent, excellent cooks. This means I have a bit of a back-log of new recipes to share, but I’m going to start with this one from Robin, who you’ve already met.

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Smokey Suzanne and Robin

This soup is the most Robin-ish dish I can think of as I’m pretty sure her favorite foods are all numbingly spicy, deeply smokey, or bracingly bitter. This soup is on the more balanced end but plays with all those flavors. It’s also the best black bean soup recipe I’ve come across to date. I suggest you make it immediately.

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Smokey Coffee Black Bean Soup: 

Robin’s original recipe called for blending the soup and using duck bacon. I like a chunky black bean soup so I skipped the blending it. I think duck bacon would be awesome, but if you live outside NYC it can be hard to get your hands on so I used turkey bacon. I’m sure regular bacon would also be good. If you use a higher-fat bacon you can cook your onions and peppers in the fat it renders. Turkey bacon, tragically, does not render fat so you have to add some butter. 

– 1 yellow onion, finely chopped

– 6 cloves garlic

– 1 red bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped

– 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped

– 8 oz. turkey bacon

– 2 15 oz cans black beans

– 1 15 oz can fire-roasted tomatoes (chopped, if yours don’t come chopped)

– 1 tbsp butter

– 1 qt chicken broth

– 1 tbsp. cumin

– 1 tsp sumac

– 1 1/2 tsp hot paprika

– 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

– 1 tbsp. cocoa powder

– 1/2 tsp salt

– 1 1/2 cups strong black coffee

– 3 bay leaves

– Chopped green onions, cilantro, lime, and drained yogurt or sour cream for serving

* Cook bacon in pan, remove, and cool on paper towels. When cool, chop coarsely.

* Melt butter in large pan over medium heat. Add chopped onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.

* Add bell pepper and cook for about 5 minutes until soft and beginning to brown.

* Add garlic, jalapeno, and cumin to pot. Stir until fragrant.

* Add 1/2 tsp salt, rest of spices, and cocoa powder.

* Add chopped bacon, tomatoes and their liquid, beans and their liquid, broth, coffee, and bay leaves. Bring to boil.

* Reduce to simmer and cook over low heat for 1-2 hours until soup is quite stew-y.

* Remove bay leaves and serve with chopped green onions, cilantro, yogurt or sour cream, and lime wedges.

 

Chickpea Soup with Broccoli (or an extremely smooth hummus)

If it seems like this blog is fast becoming a list of things you can do with broccoli intermingled with the occasional cake, all I can say is, I’m sorry. I’m pretty sure, when I look back on this year that is one of the ways I will remember it. I will think of stalks of broccoli chopped into a salad or dunked in hummus eaten in hotel rooms or on a bench outside an archive somewhere in America. And, I will remember the cakes I cooked in New Haven as I tried to reestablish my presence in the kitchen.

Today though, I have a recipe that unites those two instincts. It’s both an easy lunch and a recipe that let’s you make your kitchen smell good. It turns out that when you winterize hummus and broccoli you get something much steamier, pun intended. This soup is a little boozy, velvety in texture, and seems like it deserves to be eaten with enough care to require utensils. I found it in the February issue of Bon Appetite on my flight to California and I ripped it out immediately. Since I got home last Sunday, I have eaten it every day for lunch.

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One more thing about this recipe: I know that when people write lists of 10 ways to be a successful food blogger, picking a fight with Smitten Kitchen is not at the top of any of them. But, if, like me, you recently learned that you have to peel your chickpeas to make ethereally smooth hummus and thought, “Well, I guess I’ll never have that,” I have your answer. I have been slyly dunking crackers into my refrigerated pot of  this soup all week. Seriously, it turns out that cooking your chickpeas in wine and broth makes for a dreamy, creamy hummus.  It may not be “ethereal” but is extremely smooth. You will notice that when you puree the soup at the end of this recipe you add water to get it to the consistency you want. I see no reason why, if you wanted to skip the soup phase of this recipe, you couldn’t just skip adding water to the puree and go straight for the hummus. That said, it’s gross out. Make soup.

Chickpea Soup (Adapted from Bon Appetite, February 2013) 

– 1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas

– 3 tablespoons olive oil

– 2 yellow onions

– 4 garlic cloves

– 1 sprig thyme 

– 1 cup dry white wine (The Bon Appetite recipe calls for only 1/2 a cup; I thought that looked off when I added it to the pot and was happy I doubled it.) 

– 4 cups chicken broth. (Bon Appetite also called for vegetable broth, which I’m sure would be fine.)

– 1 bunch of broccoli

– Red pepper flakes

– Salt to taste

* Soak the chickpeas. (I always quick soak my beans because, you know, I don’t plan ahead. Also, I don’t see any argument for doing the longer soak.  To quick soak your chickpeas add your dry chickpeas to a pot, cover them in water, bring to a boil, let the beans boil for three minutes, and then turn off the heat and cover for an hour. After an hour, drain the beans. Then you’re ready to go.)

* Roughly chop the onions and smash the garlic.

* Heat oil in pan over medium heat and add onions, garlic, and thyme sprig. Cook until onions are soft and starting to brown, stirring often. This took me about ten minutes.

* Add chickpeas to pot and toss with onion-garlic mixture thoroughly.

* Add wine to pot and turn up heat so it boils quickly. Boil for about 2 minutes until the wine is reduced by half. (I always have trouble telling if a liquid is reduced by half. Here, I don’t think it matters that you get this exactly right.)

* Add broth and bring to boil.

* Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until chickpeas are very soft, about 1 1/2-2 hours.

* Puree soup with immersion blender or in batches in a blender until smooth. Add water as you go to get it to the thickness you want. (Or don’t add water and go straight for hummus.)

* When you’re ready to eat, cut your broccoli into florets and steam quickly, until tender (about 4 minutes). Serve garnished with broccoli, olive oil, salt, and red pepper flakes.

Roasted Coriander Tomato Soup

Even though it’s now clearly fall–closed toed shoes out, down vests on–there are still tomatoes hanging on at the farmers market, or there were last week. As long as they are there, I’m buying.

Since I discovered this Orangette recipe, the only way I have wanted to cook tomatoes is by tossing them with a bunch of olive oil, salt, and coriander and roasting them in the oven until I get bored. Then I toss them on some sort of grain, or eat them with eggs, or both, as I did here. But, really, I’m in it to scrape the leftover tomato/oil/coriander drippings off the bottom of the pan and eat them with a spoon. Goodbye last-shred of dignity.

Last weekend I came home with a box of those slightly-larger-than-cherry-tomato sized heirloom tomatoes. On my way home, I decided that if I could figure out a way to turn those coriander roasted tomatoes into soup, I might be able to slurp those drippings down and make it look classy. 

I’m not sure I can call this soup is classy, but it is, in my opinion perfect. It’s incredibly simple to make, but so much better than cans of tomato soup, which are often a bit too sweet for me. I was prepared to add cream to the recipe, but by the time I was done blending it together it tasted so creamy I skipped it and instead threw in two tablespoons of slightly-past-its-prime red wine which gave it a bit of a sour kick.

We ate it with these, which are kind of like grilled cheese sandwiches for people who can’t eat gluten.

Roasted Coriander Tomato Soup (Serves 2 as a main course, but could easily be doubled.)

– 1 quart sized box of small tomatoes

– About a teaspoon of coriander and a big pinch of salt

– 4 cloves of garlic

– 1 tablespoon butter

– 1 tablespoon olive oil + more for roasting

– 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

– 2 large pinches of thyme

– 2 tablespoons red wine

– Salt and pepper to taste

* Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

* Cut tomato in half and toss with a hefty drizzle of olive oil, coriander and salt. You want all the tomatoes coated with the spices and olive oil.

* Roast in oven for 25-30 minutes.

* When tomatoes are just about done, mince garlic.

* Heat oil and melt butter in large pot.

* Add garlic to oil/butter mixture.

* When garlic is beginning to brown add tomatoes to pot being sure to scrape all the juices they have let off into the pot. Toss with garlic mixture.

* Add two cups of broth, two big pinches of thyme and pepper to taste.

* Simmer for about 20 minutes.

* Remove from heat and either blend until smooth with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender.

* Return to simmer and stir in 2 tablespoons of wine.

* Enjoy.