Chickpea, Celery and Mushroom Soup

Although I tend to think New Years Resolutions are a little ridiculous, I pretty much always end up making a few. I’ve had a couple resolutions that I make every year, which I guess defeats the purpose, but that’s life. I’m currently working on one that I’ve made every year since about 2002: cooking more recipes from my cookbook collection (which leads me to this blog post).

I got The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen by Paula Wolfert (who knows Mediterranean food better than just about anyone) as a gift a few years ago but have only made one or two recipes out of it. I love the premise of the book: slow cooking, long marinating, and lengthy braising to maximize the flavors of the ingredients. The recipes don’t have too many steps, but they all take several hours from start to finish (although most of those hours don’t require you to be in the kitchen).

This recipe requires a little advanced planning, because you have to soak the chickpeas and mushrooms overnight, then let them cook for about 6 hours in the slow cooker. That’s followed up by about 30 minutes of cooking on the stove top (when the celery is added) The result is a boldy-flavored bowl of delectably creamy chickpeas in an earthy mushroom broth with the subtle backdrop and crunch of celery. The melting manchego on top rounds out the umami flavor perfectly.

The recipe calls for just half an ounce of dried porcini mushrooms, but I found a 0.88-ounce package of various dried mushrooms at Trader Joes and used that. I was definitely happy to have the extra mushrooms in the soup, so if you have more than half an ounce, don’t be shy about using it!

This makes great leftovers, and to make it a little heartier, you can ladle it over some cooked rice.

Recipe:
adapted from The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen by Paula Wolfert)

2 cups dried chickpeas
1/4 tsp baking soda
pinch sugar
.5-.9 ounces assorted dried mushrooms (porcini, chantrelle, oyster, etc)
3 bay leaves
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
3 ribs celery, thinly sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
a few ounces of manchego cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler into curls

The day before you plan to make the soup:
Put the chickpeas, baking soda, and a pinch of salt into a medium bowl and cover with at least two inches of cold water. Soak for about twelve hours.

Put the mushrooms and sugar in a small bowl and pour 1 cup of hot water over them. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least twelve hours.

The next morning:
Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Put them in a slow cooker with the onion, bay leaves, 2 tbsp olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Cover with fresh cold water by about an inch. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

About 30 minutes before you plan to eat the soup:
Drain the mushrooms (reserve the liquid) and chop them well.
Heat the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil in a soup pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute, then add the celery and cook for another two minutes.
Add the mushrooms, their soaking liquid, and the chickpeas and their cooking liquid to the soup pot. Taste and adjust the seasonings (I had to add a few generous pinches of salt), then simmer for about 20 minutes.

To serve:
Ladle soup into bowls and top with a few curls of manchego.

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