Winter Pantry Soup

I’ve been bored with everything I’ve cooked since taking my husband to June in Peoria Heights for his birthday in January. Like Thad Morrow, Josh Adams does wonderful things with local food. So much so, that I feel inadequate in my kitchen for days afterwards.

Not wanting to waste time that could be spent in the sunshine standing in line at the grocery store, I decided to go for a walk and make due with what was in my pantry. I pulled out my copy of Twelve Months of Monastery Soups by Brother Victor-Antione d’Avila-Latourette. It is 16 years old, but I love this book. The recipes are simple, homey, and arranged by month for the climate of suburban New York, which has historically been a bit warmer than here thanks to the ocean.

Unfortunately, I did not have the right ingredients for any one recipe, so I cobbled together my own. The result was quick and anything but boring.

You can find the spices in bulk at Common Ground. Toasting them makes all the difference in the world. Since the amount is small, I used a wooden mortar and a Correlle rice bowl, instead of a spice grinder, to grind them. You also could use a shallow sided bowl and a heavy, flat bottomed glass.

Sambal is an inexpensive chili paste found at World Harvest and pretty much every Asian grocery in town. It packs a punch and will last virtually forever. The most common brand is Huy Fong, which also makes sriracha sauce. Though they have similar ingredients, they are far from the same thing. Sriracha has sugar to temper its chilies and is less vinegary, so it is about half as hot. If you don’t have sambal, substitute ground red pepper flakes and add a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar. You can also try your hand at making sambal this summer. I used Ming Tsai’s recipe last summer in an attempt to tame some jalapenos that were aiming for the next Scoville level thanks to the late-season drought.  

I pureed half the chickpeas because I am still trying to learn how to pressure cook them without turning them into hummus. This week we brought them to a boil and let them soak for two hours, then cooked them for ten minutes on high pressure with a rapid cool. Next time, we’ll try eight minutes. The ground chickpeas thicken the soup, but if you don’t have an immersion/stick blender, you can leave them whole. 

Triple S andouille pork sausage is a good local option for this soup. If you prefer something other than pork, local chicken sausage isn’t commercially available yet, so the next best thing is Aidlles, which is raised without hormones. Schnucks typically stocks the sweet Italian version, though the artichoke and garlic also would work. Vegetarian brats also would work. Sautéing either type of sausage adds to the flavor of the soup. Yes, it’s another step, but the soup goes together quickly and doesn’t involve hours of simmering.

1/8 t caraway seed
heaping 1/4 t cumin seed
heaping 1/4 t coriander seed
2 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 shallot or small onion
2 t or to taste sambal chili sauce
OR a generous pinch of ground red pepper flakes and a few drops of vinegar or
lemon juice
2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock
generous pinch of dried thyme
1 large carrot cut into ¼-inch dice
2 cans or 1/2 pound dry chickpeas cooked
2 t olive oil
2 links pork andouille, chicken sausage, or vegetarian brats sliced
1 pound fresh spinach torn into bite-size pieces
  OR 2/3 of a package of frozen, drained
Salt to taste

Toast caraway, coriander, and cumin in a small heavy skillet on medium heat. When the spices begin to perfume and take on just a hint of color, remove them to a bowl, grind, and set aside.

Heat 2 T olive oil in  a lidded stock pot. Add garlic and shallot or onion and sauté until just golden. Add ground spices and sambal or red pepper flakes if using instead being careful not to let them burn. Do not add the vinegar or lemon juice now. When they perfume, add chicken stock, thyme, carrot, and vinegar/lemon juice if using. Simmer with lid on until carrots are crisp tender. Begin checking after five minutes.

Meanwhile, sauté sausage in spice skillet using 2 t olive oil. Use a little liquid from the soup to deglaze the pan and add the works to soup along with one can chickpeas. Using a ladle of soup, grind remaining chickpeas with an immersion blender in a large glass, then add to soup. If using frozen spinach, add now. If not, allow chickpeas to heat through and then add fresh spinach, cooking until it wilts and becomes dark green.

The amount of salt is up to you. I added a half teaspoon because the chickpeas and stock were unsalted.

Serves 4