Friday, January 14, 2011
Eating dinner all together as a family is a given in our house. It’s not something we make a point of doing, it’s just the way it is. I look forward to cooking the meal, and we all enjoy eating it together. Maybe it’s because we’re living in Italy? I keep reading articles (as I’m sure you all have too) about how the family meal in the States is disappearing as kids get over scheduled and parents work too much. Well, here in Italy - at least at Casa Minchilli - dinner time happens every evening.
Except when it doesn’t. Every so often one of us has something to do that throws the schedule out of whack. This week I’ve signed up for a cooking class at Tricolore, a new bakery/cooking school that has opened in Monti. I’m not usually one to sign up for classes but I couldn’t pass this one up. Gabriele Bonci, the pizza guru of Pizzarium, had agreed to teach his first classes. This Thursday and Friday bread, and next week pizza.
The classes are from 6-9. Dinner time. Not only did I think I was going to arrive home, post class, hungry at 9:30 (I didn’t know we’d be gorging on porchetta during class) but I wanted to make sure that Emma and Domenico had something to eat while I was out playing with dough.
Soup seemed the perfect answer. A big pot of soup, filling and filled with vegetables. That way we could all eat dinner, even if we didn’t all eat it together.
Remember I told you I was going to start going through all the weird and wonderful beans and legumes I bought at the Salone? Well, have you ever seen black chickpeas? Evidently they are common in the south of Italy, in Puglia and Basilicata. I think the pack I bought came from Irpinia in Campania. I'd love to give a source for buying these, but the nearest thing I can find is the Indian variety, called Kala Chana. I'm not sure if these are similar in taste. If anyone has any insight into the matter, let me know.
Although they look like chickpeas, (except they are black) they cooked up very differently. The black skin stayed intact, and kept the peas from getting mushy and releasing their starch, so the soup ended up being more brothy than a a regular chickpea soup. And the broth itself was stained black, kind of like cooking with black beans. The Ceci also had a much stronger flavor than regular chickpeas, which paired perfectly with the broccoli. Why broccoli? I thought the green would look nice with the black. It did.
One word about the pastrami. With soups like these - legume and vegetable - I always like to add some sort of cured meat to give it more oompf. My go-to meat of choice is usually pancetta or guanciale. But the other day I was at Norceria Viola and couldn’t resist buying some pastrami. Slightly smoky and very lean, it definitely added a rich, beefy element to the soup. But feel free to leave the meat out, for a vegetarian version. Or for that matter, use pancetta or guanciale instead, for a fattier, porkier dish.
Black Chickpea and Broccoli Soup
300 gr. Ceci Neri*
1 pound of broccoli florets
3 cloves garlic
4 slices smoked pastrami
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
Soak ceci for at least 6 hours. Drain and cooked in lightly salted water. Don’t throw away the cooking water!
Pour olive oil in a large soup pot, and heat gently. Add onions, red pepper flake and 1/2 tsp salt. Cook until onions are soft, about 8 minutes. Add chopped garlic and pastrami, and cook for another few minutes, until garlic starts to become fragrant. Add chopped tomatoes and cook for another 8 minutes, until they give off most of their water.
Add broccoli, which you’ve chopped into bit size pieces. Stir to coat with onions. Add the chick peas and their cooking water, and give a good stir. The amount of liquid should come to about an inch above the ingredients, so add more water if you need to.
Bring to a simmer and cover and let cook for about 40 minutes. This soup is even better the next day.
I actually like this soup spicy, but know that everyone has different tastes. So I usually serve it with a small dish of some kind of hot pepper at the table.
*If you can't find Ceci Neri, just substitute regular chickpeas, or even black beans. And if you do, let me know how it turns out.