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A Soup for a Transitional Season

April 16, 2012 | Tags: Deborah Madison , Food , Vegetables | Post comment

A Soup for a Transitional Season

As I write this in, literally, mid-April, friends from the East Coast are talking about their hot weather, and we in New Mexico have gone from the most lovely spring right back to winter with swirls of snow and fall temperatures.  The progression to summer is almost never a smooth one and I consider spring to be one of those transitional seasons where we flip-flop in our needs and tastes.

I’d love to be writing about asparagus, which we’ll talk about on Wednesday, but I also want you to be prepared for a the sudden need of robust, warming soup, one that uses some of the greens that are around, including beet greens. While this may sound like a winter soup, it’s one that you can make and enjoy n any season.  It always incorporates fresh greens. The tomatoes can be fresh when it’s summer. You needn’t serve it piping hot—in summer such soups are good tepid or warm. And chickpeas are such a health-supporting food that they’re good to include any time of year.

Usually I cook 1-cup dried garbanzo beans at a time (in a pressure cooker), which yields about 2 ½ cups. But this soup calls for only 1 ½ cups, the same amount that’s in a 15-ounce can in case you haven’t cooked your own but also because I like to have cooked chickpeas on hand to add to salads, to pastas, roast, make into hummus and such, and you might, too.

Chickpea and Tomato Soup with Beet Greens and Garlic-Rubbed Bread     

Ingredients

1 onion, chopped in ½-inch pieces, about 1 cup
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for the bread
2 celery stalks, plus leaves, diced
1 large garlic clove, smashed, plus 1 clove, cut in half
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano or 1 tablespoons fresh, chopped
1 thyme sprig or a good pinch of dried thyme
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 15-ounce can organic, diced tomatoes
1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas ( 15-ounce can)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cups liquid —chickpea broth, vegetables stock or water
Several cups washed and torn beet greens, chard or spinach
2 pieces of whole-wheat country-type bread (optional)

Preparation

Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add the onion, celery, the smashed garlic, parsley, oregano and thyme and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.  Stir in the tomato paste, fry it in the oil for a few minutes, then add the tomatoes and chickpeas. Season with ½ teaspoon salt and add the liquid.  Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for at least 30 minutes.  Even though everything is more or less cooked, it takes some time for all the flavors to meld and soften. An hour would not be too long.

Stir in the beet or other greens and cook until they’re softened and are tender - a few minutes. When done, taste for salt and season with pepper.

Before serving, toast the bread, then rub it with the remaining garlic and brush with it olive oil. Tear it into pieces.  Serve the soup and submerge the bead in each bowl so that it soaks up the juices and adds its texture. Dribble in a little extra olive oil or garnish with parsley if desired.  If the weather is hot, you might not want the bread. Just leave it out if that’s the case.

 Makes 4 good-sized portions