White Bean Farro Soup with Chickpea Parmigiano
Serves 6 to 8
A great big Italian-style soup with a little Tuscan flair: white kidney beans (cannelini) are a favorite of mine for their tender, creamy flavor that’s loaded with fiber. Paired with chewy farro, an ancient variety of wheat that’s pearled similar to barley, this soup is a whole meal in a bowl. Farro stands up to a long simmer much better than pasta, and you’ll be tempted to throw in a few handfuls of spinach or escarole for more color and nutrition.
But what makes this soup really special is the addition of a quick homemade Parmesean-like topping made from chickpea flour cooked with olive oil and lemon juice. If you miss a sharp and tangy topping for Italian soups, you’ll love how the golden crumbs of chickpea parmigiano melt into the soup to form a lovely golden topping; the chickpea parmigiano comes together while the soup is simmering and lasts for many servings.
Tip: Any soup that uses vegetable broth will vary in the amount of salt needed. Taste your broth before using; if it’s very salty you may not need to add any salt at all. If it tastes like it could use some salt, start with the suggested amount and add more toward the end of cooking along with the pepper.
1 cup pearled farro wheat berries
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced
8 cups vegetable broth
One 14 ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage powder
2 fourteen ounce cans white kidney beans
1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1 recipe Chickpea Parmigiano (page XX)
Additional olive oil for drizzling (optional)
Few twists of freshly cracked pepper and salt to taste
Optional: 1 cup baby spinach leaves or finely chopped escarole
1. Pour the farro into a metal mesh sieve and rinse well. In a 4 quart soup pot preheat the olive oil over medium heat, stir in the garlic and fry for 30 seconds. Add the onion, celery, and carrot and fry for 5 minutes or until onion is tender and translucent. Stir in the diced tomatoes, thyme, rosemary, salt, and sage powder and fry for 1 minute. Stir in the vegetable broth, beans, and farro. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil for 1 minute, then reduce heat to medium low and partially cover. Simmer the soup for 30 to 40 minutes or until the farro grains are plump and tender. Occasionally uncover and stir the soup.
2. When the farro is tender, if using spinach or escarole stir into the soup and simmer another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, stir in the parsley and season with pepper and salt if needed. Partially cover the soup and let stand 10 minutes before serving.
3. Ladle soup into large deep serving bowls. Sprinkle top with 2 to 3 tablespoons of Chickpea Parmigiano.
Chickpea Parmigiano Topping
Makes about 2 cups
A technique borrowed from Ethiopian cuisine helps create a sharp, tangy crumbles of chickpea flour that resemble coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. These fluffy, delicate crumbs are meltingly tender and dissolve on contact with hot, moist foods that in a way that reminds me of finely grated cheese. The best way to enjoy this is sprinkled onto soups immediately before serving, but you can try it as an alternative topping for pasta. Store Chickpea Parmigiano in a tightly covered container in the fridge, and always use clean, dry utensils to scoop it up.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chickpea flour
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon sea salt
1. In a small saucepan over medium heat heat the olive oil, then pour in the chickpea flour. Use a rubber spatula to mash the flour into the oil and stir constantly to toast the flour for about 2 minutes. The flour should turn a slightly darker shade of yellow and look slightly damp.
2. In a measuring cup whisk together the lemon juice, water, and salt. Pour into the flour; it will sizzle and splatter a little. Stir constantly until a firm ball of dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and empty dough onto a dinner plate. Use the spatula or your fingers (once the dough cools slightly), to press and smear the dough into a thin layer over the surface of the plate. Transfer the plate to the refrigerator and chill for 15 minutes.
3. Once the dough feels completely cool, remove from the refrigerator and drag a large fork through the dough. Continue to press and drag the fork through the dough, occasionally stirring and fluffing up the crumbs. The more you drag and press the fork through the dough the finer the crumbs will be. Work the dough like this for 3 to 5 minutes. The crumbs are ready for use, but if you want them to firm up a little, pour into a container and chill another 20 minutes.
4. To use crumbs, sprinkle generously on top of hot soup or sauce just before serving. The crumbs will dissolve on contact with hot moist food. Always use a dry spoon or fork to scoop crumbs out of the container. To keep crumbs fluffy, don’t press down on them and if stored in the fridge, use a fork to fluff them up a little before using.