After shoveling out from the blizzard here (well, I had some fun with my cat Rocky too as you can see), a little soul-warming soup was in order. And I knew just which soup to make. My friend Bianca served this soup to us our first night in Milan during our recent trip. I met Bianca on the subway there about six years ago –– really -– and we hit it off instantly. Before you knew it, we were invited to her home for dinner and talking about everything from politics to literature to family and travel. We don’t usually see each other more than once a year, but every time we visit with Bianca and her husband Valerio, it’s like being with friends you’ve known forever.
Bianca’s chickpea soup was the perfect antidote for my gluttonous three weeks in Italy. It’s a simple soup that’s also nutritious and low in calories – and delicious to boot. The photos here were taken in Bianca’s kitchen and I regret not taking a shot of the wonderful cheeses she served with it – everything from an aged parmigiano to a milky mozzarella and a creamy gorgonzola. I’m giving you her recipe for zuppa di ceci, but I added a parmesan cheese rind while the chickpeas cooked – something I always have in my freezer.
Zuppa di Ceci (Chickpea Soup)
For four people:
1 3/4 cups (400 grams) dried chick peas, soaked in about 6 cups water
2/3 of a small sprig of rosemary, minced, plus more for decoration
2 cloves of garlic
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
Soak the chick peas in water for about 24 hours with a pinch of salt.
Cook them without salt for one hour in a pressure cooker, or two hours in a regular pot. (I added a parmesan rind to the pot)
Take out half of the chick peas and set aside. Puree the other half, then add the whole chickpeas to the pureed mixture.
Sauté the garlic and rosemary for a short time in a pan with the olive oil, until the garlic is barely golden. Add the garlic and rosemary to the cooked chick peas, cooking them together for a few minutes, to blend the flavors. Ladle in extra water to thin the soup to the density desired. Adjust seasonings, adding salt as required.
Optional: use vegetable broth instead of water to thin the soup.
Before serving, drizzle with a good extra virgin olive oil and grind some fresh black pepper on top. Add some hot red pepper flakes if you like more heat.
I used a really special olive oil from Casale Sonnino, my friend’s villa in the hills outside Rome. Claire and George are following in their mother Clo’s footsteps in maintaining the high quality of olive oil, made only from olives on their property and squeezed at a local mill. A new shipment has just arrived in the states. Call Claire at 516-767-7188 and she can ship it right to your home. The villa is also available as a vacation rental and sleeps up to 10 people.