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Today: A spring vegetarian chickpea soup that's lush in all the right places (but won't lull you to sleep).
When I say chickpea stew, you might think of some burly concoction, full of assorted falling-apart vegetables, ladled into crocks at the co-op. I did, at least. And then I thought: not now. November.
But this soup has more in common with avgolemono than goulash, and it's exactly what you need right now.
It comes from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day and, like so many of Swanson's recipes, feels revitalizing and pure without careening into asceticism.
Yes, this is chickpeas, humbly, in broth. But that broth is enriched with yogurt and saffron and even a few egg yolks.
"Close your eyes and you will think that it is cream based. It's not," Food52er cookinginvictoria wrote to me. "But what really pulls the dish together is just a whisper of saffron."
She's right -- if you've ever made a complex tagine or paella and been uncertain what the saffron tastes like and why you paid good money for it, lay it on a canvas of chickpeas and creamy broth. There it is!
The only trick is the part where you temper in your yogurt and egg yolks, and bring it back nearly to a simmer. (All that means: whisk a little hot stock into the yogurt, egg, and saffron mix. Then whisk it back into the pot. Watch it turn all creamy and gold.)
It sounds stressful and dinner-risking, but it's actually very forgiving. Full disclosure: With full-fat yogurt, I even boiled a leftover batch for several distracted minutes to reheat it, with no unpleasant side effects (lower fat yogurt fans, I don't know if I can vouch for you -- just don't get crazy).
However, I've made this with both thick Greek yogurt and thinner styles; canned chickpeas and cooked-from-scratch -- it's always good.
This is your go-to base, but cookinginvictoria has more brilliant ideas: "This could be doctored up, of course, with a handful of Swiss chard or sorrel leaves or some roasted fingerling potatoes. But I think that it's pretty much perfect as is."
So whether you've been huddling in front of your computer all day or out playing frisbee in the park, you'll take comfort here, and fish for chickpeas, spoon by spoon, until you feel renewed.
Heidi Swanson's Chickpea Stew with Saffron, Yogurt, and Garlic
From Super Natural Every Day: Well-Loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen (Ten Speed Press, 2011)
Serves 4 to 6
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
Fine-grain sea salt
3 cups cooked chickpeas or 1 1/2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads (2 modest pinches)
3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 cup plain yogurt
Small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].
Photos by James Ransom