We have experienced a really strange summer this year in the Pacific NW. No rain for weeks on end, hot temperatures, and more aggressive winds than normal. Then suddenly about 2 weeks ago, the skies clouded over, the winds whipped up to a mighty force, and we received our first rain in months. And believe me, there was rejoicing heard all around our glorious state. The farmers were happy, the hardy folks fighting our numerous wild fires were ecstatic, and those of us who were trying to keep our yards and gardens alive could be found dancing in the showers while sending grateful thanks up to whichever benevolent deity would listen.
So now, after several decent rain storms our yards are looking better, the webs are starting to come back between our toes, and at least to this native Washingtonian, it appears that fall is on its way. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not wishing for the gray days of winter to get here any sooner than they must. But when I wake up thinking about making soup, I know that it’s my own internal precursor to the onset of fall. (Some people get aches and pains in their joints when fall weather approaches; I suddenly get a desire to build soup.)
So yesterday morning I decided to build a version of Deborah Madison’s Smokey Farro and Chickpea Soup. I changed a couple of ingredients to suit my taste, and added some ham to add a depth of flavor and additional protein. The result was an absolutely divine new addition to my fall and winter soup recipe collection. I hope you too will add this to your soup recipe repertoire. It is delightfully easy to prepare, healthy to the max, and absolutely delicious.
- 4 c. water
- 1 c. emmer farro (I use Bluebird Grain Farms organic Emmer Farro)
- ¼ tsp. kosher salt
- 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lg. onion, finely chopped
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- ½ c. chopped fresh parsley
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 heaping cup diced ham (for vegetarian soup, leave out ham)
- 3 c. vegetable broth
- 2 c. water
- 1½ tsp. Spanish smoked paprika
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 (14.5-oz.) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 (15-oz.) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 4 c. chopped Swiss chard
- 4 good sized green onions, thinly sliced
- ¾ c. finely grated Parmesan cheese, garnish
- garlic croutons (see recipe attached) or toasted baguette slices, opt.
Place the 4 cups of water, emmer farro, and salt in a covered pan. Place on high heat and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 45 minutes or until berries are plump and chewy. When the farro is done, drain, reserving the excess liquid, and set both the farro and reserved liquid aside. (You may need the liquid to thin out the soup at the end of the cooking time.)
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large heavy covered soup pot and fry the onion, celery, and parsley for a few minutes until onion is tender, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, bay leaf, and ham; cook for 2 minutes. Add the broth, 2 cups water, smoked paprika, pepper, cannellini beans, and canned tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover pan, and simmer gently for about 20 minutes. (If the farro isn’t done after the soup is finished simmering, remove the soup from heat and set aside until the farro is drained and ready to be added to the soup.) When the farro is drained and ready, place pot back on heat, and stir in the Swiss chard and farro. Simmer for about 3 minutes or until the chard wilts. Adjust seasoning. If the soup seems too thick, add some of the reserved farro cooking water. (You want a nice brothy soup.) Stir in the green onions just before ready to serve.
Serve with Garlic Croutons or toasted baguette slices, and grated Parmesan cheese.
Chop up some small bite sized pieces of a chewy, artisan baguette. Place in a frying pan with butter or olive oil (or a combination) and sauté until each crouton is crunchy. (This takes about 45 minutes because you need to go low (heat) and slow.) Add more butter or oil as needed. When desired crunchiness is attained, sprinkle with granulated garlic. Allow to cool completely before placing in an airtight container.