Chickpea, Cherry Tomato & Arugula Soup
"Cucina Povera" or "poor peoples food"... what a sad way to describe these wonderful if modest meals- which are indeed fit for a king! You can keep your oysters and fois gras- or at the other extreme your burgers and fries... I would choose a bowl of good home-cooked food like this any day, given the choice!
With just a handful of fresh, tangy arugula and 5-6 cherry tomatoes, these simple chickpeas were transformed into a wonderful, traditional Italian dish that is as healthy as it is delicious! I like that!
I hate to brag... but this picture says it all! Let me just tell you that, as simple as it is, this dish tastes every bit as delicious as it looks in the pictures!
You can either soak dried chickpeas overnight in the traditional manner to make this soup... and have to go to that trouble and then have them sit and simmer on your stove top for more than an hour... or used canned chickpeas, which are every bit as good if not better, if you ask me. The bottom line is... that they are not fresh either way! Remember?
So for 2 good servings I needed 1 can of chickpeas, 1 carrot, 1 small stalk of celery, 1 shallot or onion, 1 handful of arugula and 5-6 cherry tomatoes... that's all folks!
The beauty of this dish is the way that the individual flavors come through and if you get your timing right, you will get all of that good flavor to come together and become something really special.
So, let's get started! Finely chop the celery, shallot or onion and carrot into a fine dice, ready to make the "sofritto", the base of almost all Italian soups and sauces. The bay-leaf will be added later- it gives a lovely, full aroma to the dish and also makes it much easier to digest.
I like to add a splash of water to my vegetables to get them started, as as soon as that has boiled, turned to steam and evaporated away, then add just a little olive oil. I then sautéed the "sofritto" until the onion and celery were translucent and the carrot became a deep, bright orange.
I then added the chickpeas, the cherry tomatoes and the bay leaf, seasoned with a little salt, brought everything to a vigorous boil and then reduced the heat to a simmer. I covered the saucepan and let it simmer away for 10-15 minutes.
Once everything is nice and tender, you are again... ALMOST ready to serve! This is the time for you to decide whether the soup is thick enough for you- and if not, to simply crush some of the chickpeas and stir them into the broth- nothing easier!
Serve with plenty of coarsely ground pepper and a good drizzle of olive oil... remember, it is always nicer if you add the oil just before serving rather than to have it cooked into the food the whole time- it's also much better for you that way!
The arugula adds a peppery, almost mustard-like flavor that compliments the mild chickpeas and the sweet tomatoes- and the "sofritto" with which this dish was begun gives depth and contrast to make everything come together... I hope you try it and like it!