It hasn’t been a straightforward spring in Toronto. Winter coat & hail-snow last Saturday; thunderstorm on Monday; snow all through Thursday morning. Inside, Dave’s arugula is kicking into action, and the lemon tree has finally decided to grow branches, but our hallway’s filled with spring coats, winter jackets, and the sad absence of our already-packed-away winter boots. So here’s to simplicity that the weather can’t offer: a bowl of Sicilian chickpea soup.
My dad makes this soup for me, and it’s full of things to love. It’s got simple, pantry-based ingredients; minimal chopping; hardly any attention needed at the stove; healthy & hearty end product; and (bonus) it’ll help you use up your dried chickpeas* if you happen to be moving in three weeks. I eat it with toast dunked into the soup; Dave eats it with toast on the side. To each their own. What’s worth noting is that this is one of those sweet-spot recipes that you can serve to tricky eaters: it’s lactose-free, gluten-free, and vegan. Deliciousness for everyone!
This recipe comes from a stellar cookbook series that has a separate book for each region in Italy. I only have the Sicilian one, which has each recipe written out three times: in Sicilian, Italian, and English. The covers are brown-paper-covered cardboard; there are no photographs but lots of hand-drawn illustrations (a massive fish about to be decapitated by a man with a massive butcher-knife; a gentleman eating a massive bowl of pasta with the muzzle of a shotgun peeking over his shoulder). And, awesomely or trickily depending on your stance, there are very few actual measurements, or at least exact ones – this recipe, for example, calls for 1/2 a glass of olive oil. Slight mystery. So there’s some experimenting involved, but if that’s not for you, I included my approximate measurements in the recipe below. And because I was going for a simple recipe, I ignore the peeled tomato business and just added a can of them instead. When it comes to a simplified spring, this bad Italian is a happy cutter of corners.
* Don’t have dried chickpeas/don’t want to buy them? Use a can of them instead and add water or broth to taste.
Sicilian Chickpea Soup
adapted from Sicilia in Bocca
1.5 cups dried chickpeas (or 1 can cooked)
salt to taste
pinch of baking soda
2 small onions, sliced
1/2 cup olive oil
3 peeled tomatoes, seeded and chopped (or 1 can of whole tomatoes and their juices)
2 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp red chili flakes
salt and pepper to taste
1. The night or morning before, cover dried chickpeas with water; set aside to soak.
2. About an hour before you’d like to eat, pour the chickpeas and their water into a soup pot. If water does not cover chickpeas by a couple of inches, add some more. Add salt and baking soda. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let cook until chickpeas are tender, about 1 hour.
3. Twenty minutes before you’d like to eat, fry the onions in the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. When the onions are softened and translucent, add the tomatoes and their juices, the rosemary, the chile flakes, and salt and pepper to taste. Allow to simmer for a few minutes.
4. Pour the cooked chickpeas and their cooking water (or your can of drained chickpeas and enough water to suit) into the pan with the onions and tomatoes. If it looks like too many chickpeas or too much water, save the excess chickpeas for a salad and toss the extra water down the sink. Allow the soup to simmer for a few minutes; serve.