Chickpea, Tomato and Bread Soup

I recently received the cookbook Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi and was very impressed by his refined vegetarian food. My goal is not to necessarily become a vegetarian, but I think we could all benefit from a couple of meatless meals a week. Not only does it help save money, but also it rounds out a person’s diet, helping him/her feel healthier. This recipe is simple, delicious and makes wonderful leftovers (just add the bread at the last minute). It is packed full of flavor and has a hearty edge that makes it a perfect soup for the summer to fall transition.

The cookbook itself is vibrant and full of colorful pictures. The casual style writing and excellent instructions help to draw the reader in, and Mr. Ottolenghi makes vegetarian food sound and look delicious.

Chickpea, Tomato and Bread Soup

Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi

By Yotam Ottolenghi

1 large onion, sliced

1 medium fennel, sliced

About ½ cup olive oil

1 large carrot, peeled, cut along the centre and sliced

3 sticks celery, sliced

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 cup white wine

14 oz. Italian plum tomatoes

1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1 tbsp picked fresh thyme leaves

2 tsp sugar

2 bay leaves

4-1/2 cups vegetable stock

Salt and black pepper

2 large slices stale sourdough bread (crust removed)

2-1/2 cups cooked chickpeas

4 tbsp basil pesto
(see below)

1 handful fresh basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the onion and fennel in a big pot, add three tablespoons of oil and sauté on medium heat for four minutes. Add the carrot and celery, and cook for four minutes, just to soften the vegetables, stirring occasionally. Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for a minute. Add the wine and let it bubble away for a minute or two. Add the tomatoes and their juices, herbs, sugar, bay, stock and season. Bring to a boil, then leave to simmer gently for 30 minutes.

While you wait, break the bread into rough chunks with your hands, toss with two tablespoons of oil and some salt, scatter in a roasting tray and bake for 10 minutes, until dry. Remove from the oven and set aside.

About 10 minutes before you want to serve, put the chickpeas in a bowl and crush them a little with a potato masher or the end of a rolling pin – you want quite a rough texture, with some chickpeas left whole and others completely mashed. Add the chickpeas to the soup and leave to simmer for five minutes. Finally, stir in the toasted bread, and cook for another five minutes.

Taste the soup, and add salt and pepper liberally. Pour the hot soup into shallow soup bowls, place a spoonful of pesto in the centre, drizzle with plenty of olive oil and finish with a generous scattering of freshly shredded basil.

Basil

Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi

By Yotam Ottolenghi

1 cup basil leaves

1/3 cup pine nuts

½ cup grated Parmesan

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 cup olive oil

Blend basil through garlic cloves in a food processor until well blended. Slowly add the olive oil.

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