I love making soups. Especially after a cooking lesson with one of my chef friends Melissa of Musang Seattle (trained in Florence, now off doing badass things like cooking at the James Beard House, bringing Filipino flavor to Seattle’s pop-up scene and winning cooking battles on TV).
I detailed our little lesson in this post, and they are memories which have always stuck with me. My soup and risotto game haven’t been the same since. I’ve always believed in Melissa’s special touch and skill, a cook with soul and a rare kind of heart in the kitchen. Whenever I make soup, religiously using the tips she taught me in my once kitchen which gazed the Duomo from dusk till dawn, I hope to impart at least a small apart of soul the way she does in her food.
As I have mentioned a few times now on the blog, my intention is to share more healthy, seasonal recipes using what I find at the markets in Florence. I hope you enjoy this Tuscan-sourced vegetable forward soup pulsing with ceci (chickpeas). Pronounced “che-chi.”
I made this soup at the end of January when romanesco heads were brimming the market of mercato sant’ambrogio. Those pointy green cruciferous broccoli/cauliflower crosses, have always left me curious to cook with them. Chartreuse in color, Romanesco aka Roman cauliflower belongs in the cruciferous (or brassica) family along with broccoli, are rich in fiber and regular consumption have scientifically demonstrated to be associated with a myriad of health benefits (For reasons to eat more cruciferous check this curious site, which my nutritionist sister got me hooked on)
Another cook who is inspiring me where Melissa left off, is Samin Nosrat. I bet a lot of you have heard of her book Salt Fat Acid Heat, she was in Michael Pollan’s cooked series, learned to cook at Chez Panisse and in Italy under Benedetta Vitali and Dario Cecchini. I haven’t been lucky enough to have a personal lesson from Samin in my Florentine flat, but her book is a current fixture in my kitchen.
I’ve been most grateful to Samin, not only for her witty culinary storytelling and being reminded of my own upbringing flavored with Iranian cooking and my mamonjoon, but for the little tricks which have improved my cooking greatly!
In this soup, I was tasting (salting and tasting, liquid building, salting and tasting) and it was missing something. The something which makes you go “ahhhh- zing! got it!” I scrambled through her book because I remembered she said wrote about a trick she learned at Panisse which floored her. I found it, and it was adding a capful of white wine vinegar before bringing a soup up to a boil. Grabbed some apple cider vinegar, in hopes it would work, a capful spilled in. Boil was brought. A taste was made- and zing! Eureka- balance had been struck!
I wanted this soup to have a little more texture, so in a separate pan I fried up some garlic, chili flakes, evoo added some cooked chickpeas, tossed in some chopped fresh parsley and cooked for a few minutes. I tasted and once I felt there were at least 3-5 minutes left to flavorfully cook these beens, I squeezed in some fresh lemon juice for a kick of acid.
Spooned these fried lemony garlicky chickpea bits with crispy parsley onto this superfood rich Romanesco soup and voila! Winter soup success!
Want the recipe? Here ya go!
Tuscan (chickpea) ceci & market romanesco soup (serves 4-6)
Ingredients (you’ll need an immersion blender or a blender if you don’t have one)
Soffritto Vegetable base (finely chop all the following- or at the grocery store (Conad or COOP), you can find little containers of ready chopped FRESH soffritto mix- a cook’s dream shortcut!)
one celery stick
one yellow onion
2-3 tablespoons of chopped parsley
For Soup Base
One head of Romanesco, cut into chunks
2 cups/500 grams cooked Chickpeas/Ceci/Garbanzo Beans (I admit to getting the fresh pre-cooked kind from the market or grocery store- they are fresh, imho better than canned/jarred and a time saver!)
Spices & herbs
Coarse Sea Salt/Sale Grosso
Fresh cracked pepper
Tied bundle of fresh herbs to your liking such as sage, rosemary, marjoram, thyme, etc.
Parmigiano or pecorino rinds
4-6 cups of Filtered Water (depending on how thick you like your soups)
EV Olive Oil & Butter, quantity depends on you- I tend to start with a tablespoon of each or enough to cover my soffritto till glistening. For the cooked ceci/chickpeas to be topped, only EVOO
Half a fresh lemon
To dress: Pecorino Romano and New Tuscan EV Olive Oil (ideally from our food club mailings:)
Hand juicer (the wooden pointy things)
Hand immersion blender. If you don’t have one, I suggest you get one- they are such a gem for soup makers!
Bring out your favorite stockpot/soup pot. Turn on to med/med high. Melt butter and olive oil. Add your soffritto. Add chili flakes to your soffritto and a teaspoon of sale grosso. Cook your soffritto until soft. Add romanesco chunks. Cook for 3-5 minutes, break into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon or spatula. Add a generous cup of water (like 10 ounces or a tallish glass). Cook at a low simmer for 5 minutes, uncovered. Stir occasionally.
Taste the broth. If this tastes like something, add another cup/glass of water. Now add a rind of parmigiano or pecorino and an herb bundle tied with kitchen string and a cup of cooked ceci/chickpeas. Let simmer for 5 minutes, covered or uncovered. Taste. Is it not salty/savory enough? Add a pinch of fine sea salt or sale grosso.
Keep building your liquid and tasting/salting along the way until the soup reaches your preferred thickness/liquid level. I personally like my soups thick. Once at your preferred liquid level, remove the parmigiano rind and the herb bundle.
Take off heat and immersion blend to your liking. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can put half or a quarter of the soup in a blender and then pour it back in the pot. I personally only blend half the soup so there are still whole vegetable chunks. Once blended, put back on med heat & add a capful of vinegar. Stir. Bring to a boil. Then bring to a low roaring simmer, you may need to turn heat to lowest. Cover. Let simmer for 15-20 minutes so all the flavors really sink in. Stir and taste occasionally. Add salt if needed, but if you tasted and salted along the liquid building way, this shouldn’t be necessary.
For the ceci/chickpea topping: Heat oil in a small fry pan, add chopped garlic and chili flakes. Add a peck of salt too. Then add a cup of fresh ready cooked ceci. Cook at med/high heat, not too high but kind of light pan frying here. Add a couple spoonfuls fresh parsley after a few minutes to coat ceci. Cook for a few minutes, then add fresh squeezed juice from half a small lemon. I like to juice directly in the pan. Cook for a few more minutes to absorb all the liquid or at least emulsify it. Turn heat off and cover to conserve heat. Spoon as little or as much of the ceci atop soup as you’d like. For added umami savor, grate pecorino romano on top soup bowl and drizzle on new olive oil. Crack some fresh pepper for pepper enthusiasts.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask- comment below!
In your soupy trust,
hey! looking for great ingredients from Florence to make healthy recipes like these? While I can’t help you have fresh romanesco, I can help make sure some righteous Extra Virgin Olive Oil and delicious Italian cheese gets to your doorstep- check out Curious Appetite’s Food Club for all the details! We curate gourmet boxes from Florence’s best markets to your doorstep. Buon appetito!