December 3, 2014

Chickpea and Escarole Soup - Photo by Judith Hausman (UrbanFarmOnline.com) 

There are so many variations on beans and greens. While I love the stew-like Italian pasta e fagioli and Portuguese caldo verde, I’m especially fond of this sparse, nourishing version. Yes, you can add a small ham hock, slices of good sausage, little meatballs, a minced hot pepper, some barley or small pasta, but the simplest combination is wonderful and comforting to me. It’s made quickly, warms you up and can be a welcome antidote to the rich feasting of this holiday season. In fact, shred some of your leftover turkey into the broth in the final warm-up, if you like, and toast cubes of leftover rolls to make some croutons to float on top.

I like the firmness and nutty flavor of chickpeas, but creamy white beans are often used in variations on this soup. The escarole variety you use can be flat-leafed and broad or a curly and light green. In fact, you can choose any seasonal green with some texture and bracing bitterness: Try chard, turnip greens or Savoy cabbage. Cooking time may be longer if you settle on a tougher green, such as broccoli di rabe. Collards would need to be pre-cooked a while first to soften them enough.

Serve the soup piping hot along with croutons, a hearty country loaf or a pan of corn bread. A wedge of good cheese or slices of holiday ham on the side would make a more substantial meal of it.

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 to 3 T. olive oil
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 2 small carrots, chopped
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 large head escarole, chopped
  • 1 quart chicken or vegetable broth, preferably low salt
  • 1½ cups chickpeas or white beans, home-cooked or canned
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation

In a large pot, gently sauté onions, carrots and garlic in olive oil until just soft. Add escarole, and stir to coat and wilt. If using canned beans, drain and rinse. Add beans along with broth. Simmer briefly and season to taste.

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