Roots, Beans & Greens, Oh My!

Version 2
Photo © 2016 Fadia Jawdat

My husband calls me the Queen of Soups and Salads. My soups are not original: I just tweak family recipes, read cook-books and scroll through the on-line suggestions and, practice, practice, practice. I have made the same darn soups for over 30 years—I can make them in my sleep.

I was fortunate enough to discover something new this winter when I came across a New York Times on-line recipe for “Moroccan Chickpea and Chard ”.
Beans and greens combos are healthy and comforting. I love lentil soup with chard or Cannellini beans and kale. Somehow this recipe grabbed my attention, perhaps because of its rich spice combination and perhaps because I was getting a little tired of the usual list of family “traditionals”. It is my go-to soup this season. Here’s my take on the recipe.

Let me be clear: I admire cooks making beans from scratch, but I neither have the patience nor the time. I choose cans. They may be heavy to lug back from the grocery store and are a nuisance for the environment (I know), but speed in the kitchen is my modus operandi.

I omitted the jalapeño and the cayenne—black pepper is enough heat for me and the complexity of flavors in the remaining spice mixture make up for the omission. I reduced the oil and salt by half (they’re bad for you). My family can add salt, hot sauces and jalapeños to their heart’s content and so can you. No dried apricots necessary, and preserved lemons… only if you happen to have them around. They are a staple in my pantry, but I did not need to waste them on a homey soup. It is delicious enough without them. I have made the soup 4 times in 7 weeks and I have never used fennel (my family doesn’t like fennel). On occasion I used more turnips. I tried heirloom yellow and purple carrots too. Big mistake: yellow is fine, but purple will color your soup with an unappetizing grayish color.

To avoid confusion, I have scratched out my omissions and “bolded” my additions. There you go, give it a try.

Moroccan Chickpeas with Chard (New York Times)

Ingredients:
(4 ) 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 Spanish onions, chopped
1 large jalapeño pepper, seeded if desired, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (+ more to taste) teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
(2½)  1 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon sweet paprika (I use smoked Spanish paprika, for added depth)
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 fennel bulb, diced (save fronds for garnish)
1 very large bunch chard, stems sliced 1/2-inch thick, leaves torn into bite-size pieces
2(to 4) carrots, peeled and diced
1(to 2) large turnip, peeled and diced
1 pound dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in water to cover or quick-soaked
1 Can of chickpeas drained
1 (32 oz.) Carton of veggie broth: Start with 2 cups and add as you go, you do not want the soup to be too liquid (the recipe calls for the the water that the beans have cooked in, but since I use canned beans, the broth is needed)
⅓ cup diced dried apricots
(2 tablespoons chopped preserved lemon, more to taste) Optional
½ cup chopped cilantro, more for garnish Optional

The method is easy, but I recommend that you first line up and measure all the spices, grate the ginger, peel and mince the garlic, peel and chop the veggies and greens (separate the chard stems from the leaves, chop them separately, add the stems only, to the root vegetables—chopped chard leaves are to be added later in the game). Once everything is ready then you can heat the oil, sauté onions until transparent, add spices, veggies and tomato paste, sauté for a minute or two to coat with the spices. Do not let things burn or stick to the pan, start adding the broth a little at a time to loosen up things, and continue stirring. Add enough broth to cover by an inch and simmer until veggies are semi tender, then add the chopped chard and the beans and cook until the greens are tender and to your liking. Add more broth as you go if you like. Serve with hearty crusty bread, some olives and pickles perhaps. Serves 6.

For original recipe and method visit:

http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1017228-moroccan-chickpeas-with-chard