Tuesday, March 8, 2011

0 Recipe #248: Portuguese-Style Chickpea & Spinach Soup (Sopa de Grão)

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This flavorful Portuguese-style soup is very hearty and satisfying. It can be served either as a meal or as an appetizer. If you serve it as an appetizer, you might want to start out by adding only a small amount to each bowl. Your guests can always go for second helpings later, if they like, but you'll all be surprised by how filling this soup can be, even after eating only a small bowl of it. This is mainly due to the high-fiber content and complex carbohydrates of the chickpeas and potatoes, which not only thicken the soup but also give it some body. This soup is also chock full of protein and nutrients. It also contains several vegetables from the allium (a.k.a. onion) family -- yellow onion, leeks, shallots, and garlic -- all of which are considered to be "superfoods" and have immunity-bolstering properties.

The particularly fresh and vibrant taste of this soup is achieved by adding the spinach and fresh herbs into the simmering pot of soup at the last minute, so that they just cook through but still retain their flavor and bright colors. (This also helps to preserve their nutrients as well.) This technique is actually a key secret to making tasty soup in general. The order and careful timing of each addition greatly affect the outcome.

Of course, if you just follow the below directions as they're written below, you should be just fine. As with any recipe, it's also important to use common sense and remain flexible, versus just blindly following the directions like an automaton. LOL.

On that note, I should mention that I use a gas stove. So, if you use an electric stove, or perhaps have a gas stove that conducts heat differently than mine, you'll want to take these factors into account when determining heat levels and calculating cooking times. It's always a good idea to factor in elements like these so you can make the appropriate adjustments.

OK, enough facts and analysis. Now onto the recipe!

Portuguese-Style Chickpea & Spinach Soup (Sopa de Grão)

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 c. yellow onion, peeled & diced (about 1/2 small onion)
1 c. leeks, (white parts only), well-washed & sliced crosswise into 1/4"-thick rounds (about 1 large leek)
1/8 c. shallots (about 2 small shallots)
2 Tbsp. garlic, peeled & minced (about 4 large cloves)
1 large fresh bay leaf
1/4 c. dry white wine (I used a dry Orvieto)
6 c. water (or low-sodium vegetable broth)
2 c. red-skinned potato, peeled & diced (about 2 medium-sized potatoes)
1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), well-rinsed and drained
6 oz. bag of fresh baby spinach
1 1/2 Tbsp. marjoram leaves, finely minced & densely packed
2 tsp. fresh rosemary leaves, finely minced & densely packed
1/2 tsp. fresh tarragon leaves, finely minced & densely packed
1 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper, or to taste
1 Tbsp. sweet paprika
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
4-6 Tbsp. (or more) Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shredded (about 1 Tbsp. or more per person)

Directions: Heat olive oil in a large stock pot over low heat. Add onion, leeks, shallots, garlic, and bay leaf, and sauté until tender (and onions have become translucent), about 5 minutes. Deglaze with white wine, stirring a bit to release any ingredients that've stuck to the bottom of the pot. Cook until liquid has evaporated to a thin layer on the bottom of the pan, about 5 more minutes. Next, add water & potatoes. Turn up heat to high, and bring to a rolling boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Remove from heat & allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Then, either use an emulsion blender (i.e., placing it into the soup pot & blending until smooth) or transfer soup to a blender & purée in batches, pulsing until smooth. (If you are using a blender, be very careful when transferring the soup to the blender, especially if it's still a bit hot. Also, don't fill the blender too full, or the soup will very likely splurt out & possibly burn you. Place kitchen towel over the blender lid & firmly press down on it before blending.) Return soup to pot, add garbanzo beans & baby spinach, all spices & fresh herbs -- minus the cilantro, and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in lemon juice & fresh cilantro. Ladle soup into bowls, sprinkle each portion with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and serve immediately (i.e., while still hot!).

Yield: 4-6 servings.

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