The market had exotic broccoli last weekend. I am always enamored by Romanesco or fractal broccoli whenever I find it. The flavor is right in between cauliflower and broccoli and the pretty Christmas tree shape fascinates me. I cooked a platter of them on Christmas day in Umbria, I think there were 7, and the science teacher/students in our group examined them all around for the Fibonacci numberness of their composition.
Photo courtesy PDPhoto.org
I sometimes wonder why we don’t consistently have broccoli here as we do cauliflower. After living in South Asia, however, I think it is just that cauliflower is such a more durable product than broccoli. It could be the bleakest height of winter in Kathmandu, but the vegetable peddlers, selling vegetables from homemade metal baskets on the sides of their bicycles, would have huge snowy heads of cauliflower that had been transported into the city via open-bed trucks, not unlike cord wood. I love the term truck-farmer, and here, farmers actually fill the beds of their trucks with produce: at the moment, oranges, and then sit by the roadside with scales selling directly off the bed, all day.
We had buttery chickpea soups in Italy that were so good they elicited some sort of vocalization from you with every bite. This recipe is worthy of your best imported chickpeas, but it is also just fine made with canned ones, which will allow you to make it at the end of a good long day of work.
Bon Appetit, February 2013
1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas, or 3 15-oz cans chickpeas, rinsed
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 sprig thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups vegetable (or chicken) broth
1 bunch broccoli, stems reserved for another use, cut into small florets
Flat-leaf parsley and fresh tarragon leaves (for garnish)
If using dried chickpeas, place in a medium bowl and add cold water to cover by 2″. Let soak overnight in refrigerator. Drain chickpeas.
Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, and thyme sprig; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, 10-15 minutes. Add chickpeas and wine. Bring to a rapid simmer; cook until wine is reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until chickpeas are very soft, 1 1/2 -2 hours for dried chick peas, or about 30 minutes for canned. Discard thyme sprig.
Working in batches, puree chickpea mixture in a blender or with an immersion blender, adding water by 1/2 cupfuls if needed, until smooth. Season with salt. Chickpea soup can be made 1 day ahead. Let cool; cover and chill.
Meanwhile, cook broccoli in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain; rinse under cold water.
Reheat soup. Divide soup among bowls and garnish with broccoli and herbs or drizzle with chili oil.