Chickpea and Escarole Soup
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I left the grocery store yesterday morning with a somewhat renewed sense of optimism: some of the previously empty shelves — flour!! — had been re-stocked, and the general supplies throughout the store looked good: bananas! kale! milk! (Still no toilet paper).
But the shopping experience continues to feel surreal: there’s an uneasiness in the air; no one is making eye contact; everyone is on a mission, moving through the aisles with real urgency, hoping to get in and out as quickly as possible. This is to be expected and understood, of course, and while it doesn’t feel like complete panic, the absence of the normal is palpable.
Friends, I’m hoping you, too, are seeing your store’s stocks back at normal-ish levels and that you are able to find what you love and need (TP!).
Escarole is one green I have seen consistently this past week in relatively plentiful supply at my grocery stores. It’s a green I once cooked with all the time — it was, shall I say, my gateway leafy green? the kale to millennials? — but for whatever reason (… er, kale?…) I have neglected in recent years.
This simple soup, a classic “beans and greens” preparation, has rekindled my love for it, especially as a green in soup. Its texture is SO nice: it melts into the broth, absorbing all of its flavors, while still retaining a bit of sturdiness and, more important, a presence, unlike other greens, such as spinach, which can disappear. Escarole is a member of the chicory family, so it’s got a slight bitterness, but it tempers upon being cooked.
For this soup, I’ve been using one to two heads of escarole, a little over a pound total, for about 6 cups of cooked chickpeas (from a pound of dried). The broth is very simple, a combination of the chickpea cooking liquid, water, a sautéed onion, and a parmesan rind. After 30 minutes of simmering, the soup is done.
To serve, toast up some old bread in a good amount of olive oil till its nicely golden, dunk it in the soup, then crack lots of black pepper over top. Shave parmesan over top if you wish.
A Few Notes:
At the start of the year, I told you I was trying to be less of a stinker (snob) about using only cooked-from-scratch beans, but if there’s ever been a time to attempt bean cookery or to embrace it, it’s now.
More important, I think this soup, because it derives flavor from so few ingredients, demands from-scratch cooked beans. I’ll go so far as to say this: don’t make this one if you only have canned beans on hand.
This soup’s flavor relies on the chickpea cooking liquid, which draws flavor from the chickpeas themselves, an onion half, a bay leaf, olive oil, salt, and crushed red pepper flakes.
Two Ways to Cook Chickpeas
- Slow Cooker Chickpeas: Dump unsoaked dried chickpeas into the slow cooker with half an onion, a bay leaf, salt, olive oil, crushed red pepper flakes, and water. Cook for about 8 hours or until done.
- Stovetop Chickpeas: Dump soaked chickpeas into a large pot with the same seasonings listed above. Simmer stovetop for about 45 minutes or until done.
Both of these methods will leave you with about 6 cups of cooked beans and at the very least 4 cups of cooking liquid, which essentially is a super-flavorful homemade vegetable stock. It’s this stock along with more water that flavors the soup.
With cooked chickpeas on hand, this soup comes together in no time. Hope you love it as much as I.
PS: If you’re having trouble finding dried chickpeas, Nuts.com is a great source.
Here’s the play-by-play: Gather your ingredients:
Chop up the escarole and place in a large bowl, cover with cold water and let it sit while you prep the remaining ingredients. Escarole tends to be a bit dirty.
Slice up an onion thinly.
Put it in a large pot with a tablespoon of oil. Cover. Turn and cook over low heat for 15 minutes or until the onion is…
…soft and translucent.
Add the escarole, leaving the water behind. It’s OK if some water clings to the leaves.
Use tongs to encourage the escarole to wilt down. This will take about a minute.
Then add 6 cups cooked chickpeas along with their cooking liquid + more water. Add a parmesan rind if you have one on hand.
Simmer for 30 minutes.
Toast up some bread, if you wish. This is very stale overnight, refrigerator focaccia, but it revives beautifully with a little oil and heat.
Dunk it in your beans and greens and crack some fresh cracked pepper over top …
… a little extra shaved parmesan never hurts.