Garbanzo Bean Soup

Even before people had pots to make garbanzo bean soup, they were cultivating and eating these delicious beans, which are also called chickpeas. Archaeologists found domesticated garbanzo beans over 10,000 years old in the pre-pottery levels of Jericho in Palestine. Garbanzo beans are high in protein and fiber, low in fat and carbohydrates and they taste wonderful.

Here is one way to turn a food that is good for you into something that tastes great: Make garbanzo bean soup. This recipe makes a lot, so invite friends or plan on giving a quart or two away. It holds well for two or three days in the fridge and you can freeze it for an easy lunch or dinner a few weeks later.

Like most soups, this one is very easy to make but you need to allow four or five hours from start to finish as things simmer on the range. While your soup is cooking you can read a good book or do anything else that appeals to you, like laundry, vacuuming or even watching a good game or movie on the TV.

Here is what to do.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups dry garbanzo beans
1 large smoked pork hock (1 1/2 to 2 lbs.)
1/4 tsp. salt
4 or 5 carrots
3 or 4 ribs celery
1 medium onion (3 1/2 inch diameter)
1 small potato (3 to 4 inches in diameter)
2 or 3 beef bouillon cubes
1/2 tsp. marjoram
1/2 tsp. thyme
Black pepper to taste
1 T cornstarch
Smoke flavoring (optional)
Brown Gravy Sauce (optional)

PROCEDURE:

The night before you plan to make the soup, rinse the garbanzo beans in cold water in a large bowl. Remove any stones or beans that float or just look bad to you. Drain the beans, cover them with cold water and let them soak at room temperature. You should have at least an inch of water over the beans.

Before you begin to cook the beans put the pork hock in a soup pot and cover with about three quarts of cold water. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer slowly for two to three hours until the meat is tender.

Drain the beans, put them in a large pot and cover them with at least an inch of cold water. Bring them to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer them until tender, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. Test for tenderness; a bean should retain its shape when you press gently on it with your finger but be easy to chew. Drain the beans and set them aside when they are done.

Turn off the heat and remove the pork hock from the water which will become the soup broth. While the hock is cooling, wash and prepare the vegetables. Peel the potato, trim the celery, scrape or peel the carrots and remove the papery outer layer of the onion. Cut the carrots into 1/3 inch slices and the celery into half inch slices. Chop the onion medium and dice the potato into 3/4 inch cubes. Add the vegetables to the broth along with the salt, marjoram, thyme, two beef bouillon cubes and a small amount of freshly ground black pepper.

Bring the pot to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer while you separate the meat from the hock. Discard the bones, skin and fat. Cut the meat into bite-sized pieces and put it into the pot with the vegetables. Simmer for about 30 minutes, then add the beans and continue to simmer the soup for another 15 to 20 minutes.

Mix the cornstarch with a quarter cup of cold water and stir the mixture into the soup. Simmer for four or five minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. If the soup tastes watery or in need of more salt, add one or two bouillon cubes and give them a few minutes to dissolve in the broth or use instant bouillon for faster results. If it just needs salt, add a little.

You can also add two or three drops of liquid smoke seasoning if the soup seems bland and a half teaspoon or so of brown gravy sauce if it looks too pale. But take it from someone who has overdone these additions, be stingy with these condiments.

Serve with a salad and good bread for a wonderful meal on a cold night.

NOTES: Using a pork hock as the basis for a soup is an excellent introduction to the importance of using your tastebuds. Pork hocks come in different sizes and they are cured and smoked according to many different recipes by smokehouses. The saltiness, smokiness and color of your soup will depend on the pork hock and your adjustments. Learn to trust yourself.

A rustic rye or whole wheat bread goes especially well with this soup.

Ham and Lentil Soup

Lentils have been saddled with a bum rap.  Even before the King James Bible told us that Esau sold his birthright for a “pottage of lentiles” (lentil soup), people have been using the story as an example of selling something of great value for little or nothing.

Lentils do not deserve this.  The story does not suggest that lentil soup was worthless, just that Esau should not have paid his brother Jacob for it with his birthright.  In fact, the story tells us that Esau was faint with hunger and was revived by eating lentil soup and bread.  Lentil soup is good for you.

Lentils are a better source of protein than their cousins, green peas and beans.  Lentils are also a good source of iron, dietary fiber, vitamin B1 and several minerals.  Health magazine chose lentils as one of the five healthiest foods.  Plus, lentils taste good.  What more could you want?

Mom made lentil soup when we grew tired of soups made with green or yellow split peas, but this hearty soup recipe was inspired by one from the Big Oven iPad app.  Served with good bread, it makes a great cold-weather lunch or light supper.

INGREDIENTS:

1 smoked pork hock
4 cups water
4 cups chicken broth
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups dried lentils
2 to 3 cups chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
3 large carrots
2 large or 3 smaller ribs celery sliced
2 or 3 green onions chopped
1/3 tsp. salt
1/3 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/8 tsp. pepper
12 oz bulk pork sausage
2 T chopped fresh parsley

PROCEDURE:

In a soup pot or Dutch oven, bring the pork hock and water to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer covered.  Clean and chop the vegetables while the broth is simmering.  After 1 1/2 or 2 hours, when the meat should be coming off the bone, remove the hock and allow it to cool.

Rinse the lentils, removing any foreign material you find and add the lentils, tomatoes,  carrots, celery, onions and seasonings to the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until the lentils and vegetables are tender.

While the vegetables are cooking, remove the meat from the hock.  Discard the skin and fat and chop the meat into bite-sized pieces.  Fry the sausage over low heat until it is cooked.  Drain any extra grease from the sausage and add the smoked meat and sausage to the broth.  Simmer for about 10 minutes.

Clean and chop the parsley and add it to the soup a few minutes before serving.  Taste and adjust the seasonings.

NOTE:  You can substitute a meaty ham bone or smoked sausage for the pork hock.  And incidentally, the common phrase describing Esau’s selling his birthright is that he did it for a “mess of pottage” which means a serving or bowl of soup.