Minestra di Ceci
It's Friday, cold and rainy. I need a day off. I sink back under the blankets.
I have a page bookmarked in the latest issue of La Cucina. Minestra di Ceci. I imagine a wise Italian woman with her dark haired pinned up, her apron smudged with flour. She's making this for her family. It's also cold and rainy. She keeps warm by hovering over the pot as I find myself doing as well.
The recipe is lovely. It's just simplicity. You almost feel like that wise Italian woman, better, you feel like her even wiser grandmother. And when you're pinching the dough you've just mixed with olive oil into dime size dumplings, your hands feel like they've done this in some other life. As if you're that 87 year old woman whose fingers are riddled with arthritis, but you don't feel the arthritic pain, only the love you're pouring into this dish.
I have everything for this recipe, right down to the rosemary growing on our windowsill.
I pull two sprigs of rosemary and rinse them. I then throw them into the pot which was assaulted with a glorious amount of extra virgin olive oil. This came to a simmer and after making sure that the fragrant rosemary had properly infused the oil, I pulled it from the pot.
In a nice sized bowl, I had about 7 tablespoons of all purpose flour waiting. I took about 3 tablespoons of olive oil from the pan and mixed it into the flour until it created a warm crumbly dough. From there I pinched the dime sized pieces and set it aside.
The recipe called for setting the rest of the oil aside to be used for drizzling once the soup was plated. I felt this was a bit fussy so I kept the oil in the pot, added the ceci and chicken stock and brought everything up to a simmer. At this point I collected about half of the ceci and mashed them in a bowl with a fork and then transferred them back into the pot. The dime sized dough was then added as well.
I made sure to salt along the way. I also made sure to taste. It tasted really good. Really good. In fact, it tasted like that sweet Italian grandmother had just invited me to sit down to her kitchen table and this soup was her offering.
The soup simmered for about 15 minutes. In this time, it grew thicker from the tiny flour dumplings and the ceci mash. At the last minute I added a generous pinch of parsley, but none of the trito I had created only days before. This recipe does not call for it, nor does it require it.
I ladled two very full ladles of soup into a bowl, sprinkled on a bit more parsley and cracked some fresh black pepper. I sat down and before I knew it, I was almost finished the bowl and I hadn't even touched the bread I had sliced to eat along with it. To rectify this great oversite, I heaped two more ladles worth into my bowl.
I wish that Roberto had been here to taste it as well, but I saved him some. I saved some for myself as well.
Some bit of intuition that I didn't know existed within me managed to walk me through the steps. As I built the soup I built up a little more confidence. Somehow, for a moment, I was transported. This was the first time and the millionth time I've made this soup.
Minestra di Ceci
1 cup chickpeas
7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 small sprigs rosemary
7 tablespoons all purpose flour
4 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoon chopped parsley
Coarse sea salt
Start by adding rosemary sprigs to olive oil and bring to a simmer. Remove rosemary and discard.
In a medium bowl add three tablespoons of the oil to the flour and mix until it creates a crumbly dough. Pinch the dough into dime sized pieces. Set aside.
Add chickpeas and chicken broth to pot. Bring to a simmer. Remove about half of the chickpeas and mash with back of fork in a bowl. Add mashed chickpeas and dough back into the pot and stir. Let this simmer for about 15 minutes, until it thickens nicely.
Make sure you salt and taste as you go.
Transfer to bowl. Top with a little more parsley and some freshly cracked black pepper.