Sunday, January 8, 2012

Zuppa di Ceci (Chickpea Soup): Hearty Tuscan Goodness in a Bowl for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

After a long, rough week that I won't bore you about with all of the details, I wanted nothing more on Saturday than to tuck myself away from the world at large and eat something comforting, nourishing and satisfying. This Zuppa di Ceci (Chickpea Soup) from Twelve: A Tuscan Cookbook by Tessa Kiros hit all of those criteria and was delicious too.

It is a vegan soup, full of hearty chickpeas, veggies, tomato and Swiss chard, that is hearty enough even for meat-eaters--especially when served with the garlicky grilled bread. There are a few extra steps and a little time involved in making it, but I found the process therapeutic and the results are well worth the little bit of extra effort. I made a few small changes, noted in red below.

Tessa Kiros says, "Chickpeas are used mainly in soups in Tuscany, but are also ground into a flour and used to make a flat savory tart.

"Zuppa di Ceci (Chickpea Soup)
From Twelve: A Tuscan Cookbook by Tessa Kiros
(Serves 6-8)

500 g (1 lb 2 oz) dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in cold water
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large celery stalk, trimmed and chopped (I used an extra stalk)
2 garlic cloves, peeled (I used 4 cloves--3 in the soup)
4 Tbsp olive oil
2 sprigs rosemary
1 small red dried chilli, left whole (I used red pepper flakes)
100 g (3.5 oz) silverbeet (Swiss chard), trimmed and finely sliced (I used 1 small bunch)
2 ripe tomatoes, skinned and puréed or 150 g (5.5 oz) tin of peeled tomatoes, puréed (I used a whole can of diced, fire-roasted tomatoes)
6 thick slices white, country-style bread (I used a garlic loaf)
extra virgin olive oil, to serve

Drain the soaked chickpeas and put them into a large stockpot. Add the onion, carrot and celery. Cover with 3.5 litres (14 cups) of cold water (add the rest later if it doesn’t fit), and bring to the boil. Skim the surface to remove any scum. Lower the heat slightly and cook, uncovered, for about 11/4 hours, or until the chickpeas are tender. Season with salt and pepper in the last half hour of the cooking time. Purée two-thirds of the chickpeas with their cooking liquid, leaving the remainder whole. Return all to the pot. Add a little hot water if it seems too thick.

Chop one of the garlic cloves. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the chopped garlic, rosemary sprigs and the chilli. When you begin to smell the garlic, add the silverbeet. Sauté on a medium heat for a couple of minutes before adding the tomato. Season with salt and pepper and continue cooking for about 5 minutes until the tomato has melted into a sauce and seems cooked. Remove the rosemary sprigs and discard. Add the tomato mix to the chickpea pot and simmer for another few minutes to blend the flavours. Check the seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper, if necessary.

Toast or grill (broil) the bread slices on both sides. Rub one side with the whole clove of garlic and drizzle with the olive oil. Put the soup into large individual bowls with a splash of extra virgin olive oil and a grinding of black pepper. Serve with the garlic bread.

Notes/Results: Mmm... This soup is a good one--so thick and rich, with so much flavor. It perfectly hit the spot. I did use more garlic and tomato than the recipe called for and I didn't weigh my chard--just used all of a small bunch, but I think that only enhanced the flavor. Since I used my immersion blender, I just pulled out 1/3 of the chickpea and veggie mixture and blended the rest in the pot before adding it back in. I liked making a sauce out of the tomato, chard, garlic and herbs and then blending it into the cooked soup-- I felt like it added more depth to the taste. This soup is winner--even better the next day. I would definitely make it again.

This soup is my entry for I Heart Cooking Clubs, where we are spending time "Under the Tuscan Sun." You can check out the Tuscan dishes from all of the other participants by going to the post and following the links.

And I am sending it along to Cookbook Sundays hosted by my friend Sue at Couscous and Consciousness.

We have a good crowd in the Souper Sundays kitchen this week--let's take a look!

Tigerfish from Teczcape-An Escape to Food has a nourishing bowl to share and says, "Pea Shoots when fibrous can be hard to chew and digest. Imagine biting/chew grass. But these pea shoots in my recent purchase is definitely not. With no intention to cook them for too long (and lose the precious vitamins), I added them after cooking (turning off the heat) chicken soup and allow the heat to wilt and lightly cook the shoots. Yes, you do get the chlorophyll after-taste (quite typical in sprouted beans/peas) in this Pea Sprouts and Gojiberries Chicken Soup -豆苗枸杞子鸡汤 but that is not too over-powering."

Janet from The Taste Space made both a soup and a stew this week. About her Caramelized Onion and Cabbage Chowder with Sweet Potatoes and White Beans, she says, "This is a spoof on the typically cheese-laden French onion soup from Vegetarian Times (September 2011) with inspiration from Joanne. Caramelized onions are beefed up with braised cabbage in this thick chowder spiced with apple cider and thyme. Like Joanne, I opted to add sweet potatoes, but also white beans to make it more of a meal-in-a-bowl soup. Everything worked so well together, with the subtly sweet caramelized onions and apple cider with the sustenance from the sweet potatoes and beans. Good the day it was made but even more delicious as leftovers."

Janet's other dish is this hearty Trinidadian Black-Eyed Pea Stew. She says, "Everyone said they liked the stew, but I thought something was missing. The fresh cilantro and chives were important for flavour but the stew needed a bit more depth of flavour. I wasn’t happy with it. Someone ended up adding a spicy Dijon mustard and said it was superb. When I ate the leftovers, I agreed that the mustard really helped. But I thought to myself, I know I added the ground mustard – why can’t I taste it? So I went back to the ground mustard in the spice drawer… dipped my finger in it and tasted it. And what did it taste like? NOTHING! It definitely needed to be tossed!"

Sue from Couscous & Consciousness is back this week with a Fregola Soup with Shrimps & Chorizo. She says, "Today's recipe is a great example of being able to adapt and still come up with a great dish. ...I was really pleased with the end result. The earthy flavour of the saffron which comes through in the broth is both comforting and a great foil to the brininess of the shrimp - I can imagine that this would be amplified if you used clams here as they have even more of that briny quality than the shrimp. This definitely works as comfort food, but it also has an elegance about it, and I would not hesitate to serve it to company."

Joanne from Eats Well With Others made this Roasted Butternut Chowder with Apples and "Bacon" that she adapted from The Food Matters Cookbook. Joanne says, "To kick off 2012, I highly recommend you make this chowder. Sweet from the roasted butternut squash, apples and onions and salty from the bacon (whether meat-free or otherwise!) it's a figure friendly dish that will leave your tastebuds and your belly satisfied."

Corina of Searching for Spice has both a soup and a salad entry this week. First up this healthy Asian Chicken Noodle Soup. She says, "It’s been a very dull grey start to the new year. Every time I look out of the window it seems to be drizzly and damp and it just makes me want to stay inside and hibernate. After all the excesses of Christmas I also feel like I need something healthy to eat – something savoury and virtually fat-free. Soup, but not a rich creamy soup, a fresh Asian soup, something like this, brimming with green vegetables, garlic and ginger. I’m sure if you had a cold this would also be just the thing."

About her salad Corina says, "Salade Liégeoise is a Belgian potato salad with bacon, green beans, onion and a vinegar dressing. I also added a few peas as I think they go so well with bacon and potatoes. ... I served it warm for lunch but it would also be great cold as a side dish or as a packed lunch. The salad comes from the city of Liége which is in the French-speaking part of Belgian and was the nearest city to the town where I did a Belgian exchange when I was at school."

Stash from The Spamwise Chronicles is here with his take on Potato Salad and says, "It's definitely a different kind of potato salad than what people might be used to. I love playing with food and coming up with new combinations." & "The vinaigrette consists of the juice of half a lemon, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. When potatoes are done, add scallions and parsley to roasting pan. Stir in one teaspoon salmon roe."

Spencer from Live2EatEat2Live Blog made a Seaweed Salad (actually he has 3 versions on his post) and says, "Robusta seaweed (at least that’s what the owner calls it) from Marine AgriFutures, Kahuku, Hawaii. I get to use some of the supply that’s not sold during the farmers market. According to our customers, they use it mostly as an ingredient for poke. I experimented using it as the main ingredient in salad. The texture is very crispy (almost to the point of being too crispy). I boiled it for over half an hour to soften it up a bit (and it was still very crispy)."

Elizabeth from The Law Student's Cookbook has our only sandwich this week, this Coupé Coupé and Yucca Fries. She says, "Coupé coupé is a dish prevalent throughout Africa, being their version of what we know as barbecue. ... The name of the this sandwich, coupé coupé comes from the French word “couper,” meaning to cut or to slice. Traditionally the meat is grilled over hickory wood chips and has a smokey flavor."

A great group of dishes this week! Thanks to everyone who joined in. If you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on the side bar for all of the details.


A Discovery of Witches Giveaway Winner: Sorry for the delay in getting this posted but the results of the random drawing are in and the winner of the newly released paper book copy of A Discovery of Witches is Heather of girlichef, who said this about her favorite book of 2011: "My favorite book of 2011...hmmmm...that's a hard one. But I'd be lying if I didn't say Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris (though, I'd say catching up on the whole series!)." Congrats Heather! I will be contacting you to get your shipping address for the publisher. Enjoy the book! (I know I did!)


Have a happy, healthy week!


  1. Great round up! I need to get something together to participate next week!

  2. This is my kind of soup--thick and hearty. Love the close-up w/ bread.

  3. Oh yeah, I'm so happy that you made this...because I've come thisclose so many time, but just haven't done it yet. I see now that I need to- it looks amazing!

    I'm so happy to be the winner...can't wait to start reading. Thanks Deb :D

  4. Pretty much anything with chickpeas in it wins me over - looks utterly delicious.

    This is a great round up, and some great entries - I'm off to visit some of them right now.

    Thanks for sharing this at Cookbook Sundays.

    Sue xo

  5. I'm with Sue. Anything with chickpeas is tops on my list. I had planned to make this recipe this week, but I couldn't get my husband to go for a meatless dinner. I'll have to make this for myself for lunch one day because it looks right up my alley.

    I'm loving all the hearty soups in the roundup.

    Congrats to Heather on the book!

  6. I have made a version of this in the past, and now forget where I got it. Now I can try this yummy take on it.

  7. Deb, that chickpea soup made me hungry and also want to join in again in Souper Sunday sometime! I made a veggie soup this weekend but didn't take pictures or remember what I put in it. :) Basically a dried bean mixture, carrots, green beans, garlic, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper, olive oil.

  8. Thanks for the round up. I had a light dinner and am feeling hungry now looking at the soups.

  9. Aww I'm so sorry you had a rough week chica, but if anything can heal all wounds it's a good healthy soup! This looks delicious! And a great round-up as usual!

  10. Mmm, you can smell that Tuscan sunshine! Great soup, just the thing to soothe your weary bones.

  11. yummy round-up! and congrats to Heather :)

  12. This looks perfect for this time of year; and I love chickpeas! You're photos have made me hungry!

  13. Looks like a perfect, cozy Saturday soup.

  14. I love chickpea soup - I bet it's fantastic with the garlic bread.

  15. Hubby had a chickpea stew that was of Spanish origin when we were on Christmas vacation. He loved it. Thanks for all the great soup recipes. We are finally getting winter her so your post is most welcome!

  16. I had never heard of silverbeet before. I guess you learn something new everyday. Thanks :)

  17. All of these dishes look so hearty and delicious!


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