Yesterday, when I mentioned that my husband was making soup to try out our new La Chamba bean pot, I assumed he’d pored over cookbooks to unearth a recipe. Actually, he found a recipe for chickpea and farro soup from cookbook author Deborah Madison on the Toque Blanche website where he ordered the pot.
To someone afflicted with an endless cold, I can’t tell you how good a bowl of this rustic Italian zuppa tasted. The flavors are clean and wholesome: it’s basically chickpeas, farro, tomatoes and a little onion and celery, garnished with fresh basil, a thread of extra-virgin olive oil and some freshly grated Parmigiano.
With no more ado, here it is:
Farro and Chickpea Soup for Summer
(From “Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison's Kitchen,” Broadway, 2007). Her most recent book is “Seasonal Fruit Desserts: From Orchard, Farm, and Market.”
“I love cooking in clay pots of all kinds, and the Chamba black clayware is no exception," she writes. "It’s a beautiful material, so soft that it makes me want to cook in a gentle manner, with extra care. But that’s not because the clay isn’t strong — it is. It just gives a different feeling than metal.
"Farro and chickpeas needn’t be relegated to the cold-season months — they make a fine summer soup too, and they needn’t be served hot. Room temperature is good, too.
"This soup takes about 15 minutes to put together, 30 minutes to cook, but it gains in flavor if it can stand for a few hours.”
1 cup farro, soaked 4 hours in cold water
2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
1 celery rib, peeled if stringy, then finely diced
2 garlic cloves chopped with a handful parsley leaves
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 cup finely diced or crushed tomatoes, plus their juices, fresh or canned
1 (15½-ounce) can organic chickpeas
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 small handful basil leaves, finely slivered
extra-virgin olive oil
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Drain the farro. Warm the olive oil in a wide soup pot. Add the onion, celery, and garlic-parsley mixture. Cook, stirring every so often, over medium heat until the onions are translucent and starting to soften, about 7 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste then add the tomatoes, farro, 1 teaspoon salt, and 6 cups water.
Simmer 30 minutes, covered, until the farro is tender but still toothsome. Stir in the chickpeas and their liquid. (At this point the soup can sit at room temperature for several hours, giving the flavors a chance to meld.)
Reheat the soup before serving if you wish to have it hot, or serve it at room temperature. Stir in the basil, a few drops olive oil in each bowl, and grate a little Parmesan over the top.
This could be the cure.
-- S. Irene Virbila
Photos: Farro and Chickpea Soup for Summer. Credit: S. Irene Virbila/Los Angeles Times.