Though it's been almost twenty years since I visited Spain, I still remember the food we ate. Of all the places we visited, between Madrid in central Spain or farther south in Cordoba, Seville, Granada or Marbella, my favorite food was in northwest Spain. While driving north to Galacia from Madrid, we stopped in a small town for a snack and ate a tuna empanada rich with olive oil in a flaky pastry crust. For a late night dinner in A Coruña, we ate sizzling garlic shrimp in a small earthenware dish and an earthy, crusty bread we couldn't find anywhere south of that area. In Santiago de Compostela on a Sunday afternoon, we wandered into a bar, closed for drinks but willing to serve us food in the back, and ate deep-fried calamari with salad greens. While visiting my husband's cousins, we tasted aguardente, or firewater, a very strong alcohol made from cherries that they lit on fire before drinking. In Lalín, my husband's great aunts served us a typical homemade Caldo Gallego, with potatoes, greens, white beans and meat in a broth. All of the food was simple, fresh, and amazingly good.
For this Galacian-style soup I've adapted Penelope Casa's "Spinach and Chickpea Soup" from her cookbook The Foods and Wines of Spain. It's a faster version that uses canned chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, and two types of greens instead of spinach alone. One of the greens I used is curly dock, an edible wild green that I discovered while walking around our neighborhood. It was a good find for a first-time forage, and I'll share more about that in another post. If you're not quite into foraging your own greens, chard or kale will work well too. To finish off the soup, I added some leftover slices of cured chorizo. This soup is perfect for colder weather, loaded with healthy greens, and thickened with fried bread that creates a rich, flavorful broth. Just a simple bowl of soup, and I'm stepping into a little cafe in northern Spain once again.
Chickpea and Chorizo & Greens Soup
(recipe adapted from the cookbook The Foods & Wines of Spain by Penelope Casa)
8 ounces spinach
8 ounces chard or kale
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, slightly smashed and peeled
2 slices of whole grain bread, 1/4-inch thick
1 cup chicken broth
2 Tablespoons dry sherry
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained (also called garbanzo beans)
2 tablespoons parsley, minced
2 ounces thinly sliced cured chorizo, cut into small pieces
Wash spinach and remove stems while soaking in the water. Put spinach directly in a large stockpot without drying. Remove hard stems from the chard or kale. Wash well and also put directly in the large stockpot without drying. Using your hands, tear greens into smaller pieces in the stockpot. Add 1 teaspoon salt and cook over medium heat for 5 to 8 minutes until wilted. Remove from heat and pour greens and liquid into a separate large bowl and set aside.
Using the same large stockpot, add 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and heat over medium-low heat. Add onion and sauté until softened and starting to caramelize slightly, about 10 minutes. Then move the onion towards the sides of the pot, clearing a space in the center of the pot, and add another 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the center. Add the bread and garlic, and fry until bread is well toasted on both sides and garlic is golden on each side. Remove onions, bread and garlic from stockpot and put in a blender, and add about 1/2 of the chicken broth. Deglaze the stockpot with the sherry, and add the greens and the parsley back to the stockpot. In the blender, purée the onion, bread, garlic and chicken broth until smooth, gradually adding the rest of the broth to the blender. Add back to the stockpot, mix in the chorizo and the drained chickpeas, and cook for another 10 minutes to blend the flavors. Taste and correct for salt if needed. Serve immediately.
Makes 6 servings