What a great find: this traditional Tuscan winter soup comes from a cookbook filled with recipes designed to reduce your risk of cancer. The soup is flavorful and hearty, a nutritious winter meal by itself, with phytoestrogen-rich chickpeas that add a creamy consistency with minimal fat, as well as vitamins A, C and folate from carrots, celery, tomatoes, and chard, glucosinolates from cabbage, and colon-protecting fiber.
But the best news of all is that Tuscan Winter Vegetable Soup is absolutely luscious, a satisfying way to warm up your family on the long dark nights of winter.
3 cups cooked or canned chickpeas
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
3 medium celery stalks, chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large red onion, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 bunches Swiss chard, cleaned
1/2 head Napa or Savoy cabbage
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
2 fresh rosemary sprigs, (leave on stem)
One 14 1/2-ounce can plum tomatoes, drained
6 cups boiling water or vegetable broth
5 ounces stale bread, such as semolina or baguette, sliced (about 3/4 loaf)
salt and pepper
1. In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, saute the garlic, celery, carrots, and onion in the olive oil for about 20 minutes, stirring often so the vegetables do not brown.
2. Cut out the tough triangular inner core of the Swiss chard leaves and slice them into 1/2-inch slices. Add to the vegetables in the saucepan. Tear the Swiss chard leaves and set aside.
3. Cut out the triangular core of the 1/2 cabbage head, then discard. Place the cabbage, flat side down, on a cutting board. With a large chef’s knife, slice at close intervals down the cabbage, forming long, ribbonlike strips. Set aside with the Swiss chard leaves.
4. Add the parsley, rosemary sprigs, and tomatoes to the saucepan and cook at a low simmer for 15 more minutes. Add cabbage and Swiss chard leaves, half of the chickpeas, and enough boiling water or stock to cover. Simmer for 20 minutes.
5. Puree remaining chickpeas in a food processor and add to the soup with just enough boiling water or stock to keep the soup liquid. Remove the rosemary sprigs and add the bread slices. Add more liquid if necessary, but keep in mind that the soup should have a very thick “stew like” consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.