Friday, March 28, 2008

Soup that's not soupy enough

As part of our photo illustration on dried beans this past week, I corralled a pack of dried chickpeas. I've used the canned variety in hummus, but I've never made anything from dried chickpeas. Never seen 'em? They're the knobby, mimics of macadamia nuts (pic to the right; Thanks, Whole Foods) and are popular in Mediterranean cuisine.

I read that they had to soak for about 16 hours; I let them go about 20. I put them in the Crock-pot (5 quart) with 2 chicken boullion cubes, an onion, two carrots (diced) a rib or two of celery, a few slices of bacon, a tablespoon of minced garlic. For seasoning, I went Mediterranean: a little basil, some oregano. A little crushed red pepper and black pepper for bite. I then topped the crock with water, set it on High for a few hours, then turned it to Low before going to bed.

THE NEXT AFTERNOON: The beans were soft, but still were their original shape. Now, I'm used to cooking red beans, pinto beans, black-eyed peas and black beans -- even limas will cook down and make a little "gravy" after cooking so long. Not chickpeas. There was no thickening in the broth, and you could have taken tweezers and pulled out every bean.

The broth needed some salt (note that I hadn't put any in yet), but the overall flavor was pretty good. I could not, however, reconcile myself to eating a broth-based soup with whole chickpeas. Don't know why, but it wasn't going to work for me or the family.

Out comes the stick/immersion blender. They pureed into a wonderfully smooth soup that was full-bodied, had nice flavor and was a peanut-butter color. Success.

Of course, it was too hot for a ton of soup last night, so I stuck most of it in an empty and sanitized plastic distilled water jug and froze it.