I love when I find a recipe that showcases the truth that you don't need a lot of time or a long list of ingredients to create something deeply flavorful and satisfying.
Take, for example, this chickpea soup made with just garlic, beans, broth, lemon, parsley, salt and pepper(s). Even better, it takes just 20 minutes (give or take) to prepare, making it faster than take out/delivery.
For most of my adult life I've made black bean soup pretty much the same way: combine a can of black beans, a (spicy) bouillon cube and water; bring to a simmer and then puree until smooth. Finish with a sprinkle of cumin, chile pepper and sometimes a squeeze of lime juice. That simple black bean soup was something I ate weekly when I was in college and in my early 20s. It's been part of my recipe repertoire for so long that I don't remember its provenance. Did I get it from a cookbook or magazine? Did someone tell me about it? Was it the result of tossing what I had in hand in a pot and crossing my fingers?
The chickpea soup recipe, which I expect will become a permanent part of my repertoire too, is from "The Healthy Back Kitchen: Move Easier, Cook Simpler" by Griffin R. Baum, M.D. and America's Test Kitchen. The book includes "225+ recipes designed to avoid prolonged standing and minimize exertion." Or as the tag line on the cover puts it: How to enjoy great food while managing back pain.
In addition to the ergonomically designed recipes and advice for optimizing your kitchen and prep space to minimize strain on your back, the book includes detailed information about the spine, causes of back pain, when to seek help, pain management strategies and stretches and exercises to reduce back pain.
Don't be fooled by the name of this soup: It is 100 percent dairy free and when made with vegetable both is vegetarian/vegan. I made the soup using flat-leaf parsley. And although the original recipe didn't call for it, I zested the lemon before juicing (it makes juicing easier) and added the zest to the soup. I also added a generous pinch of red pepper flakes and served the soup with warm pita bread.
Creamy chickpea and toasted garlic soup
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas with liquid
1¼ cups vegetable broth or chicken broth, plus more as needed (I didn't need any additional broth)
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley, tarragon or chives, plus more for garnish
1 lemon, zest and juiced
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Mild to moderately hot red pepper flakes, optional (I like Aleppo peppers)
In a medium saucepan, toast the garlic over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and the skins are just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove garlic from saucepan and let it cool slightly. Once cool enough to handle, slip off skins and return the garlic to the saucepan. Add the chickpeas and their liquid and 1¼ cups broth. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas begin to break down, 6-8 minutes.
Remove from heat and puree to desired consistency (my soup was almost completely smooth but with a few whole beans for texture) using an immersion blender. (Or transfer the mixture to a traditional blender and process until smooth.) If the soup is too thick (mine wasn't) add more broth as needed to create desired consistency. Stir in herbs and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
If desired, garnish with a sprinkle of red pepper and more herbs. Serve hot.
Makes 2 servings.