A long setup before I offer up a recipe:
Well, it's fall. The temperatures are (somewhat) cooler, the leaves are changing colors and then abruptly dropping off the trees into crunchy piles on the ground, a hat and mittens have become must-haves for the early mornings at work, and I have been craving fall food. Pumpkin, sweet potato, apples, baked goods, and . . . soup. After a long, nearly soup-free summer, I'm back, baby.
Now, soup is one of my all-time favorite foods. Why, you ask? Well, it's warm, comforting, easy to make, freezable, usually a "meal in one," and one of the few "leftovers" that I'll actually eat. If I have soup in the fridge, dinner's nearly done when I walk in the door from work. A nice lunch, too, especially with a grilled cheese sandwich.
I admit, I'm a bit of a soup snob. (Well, I'm a food snob -- see new title for my bloggie?) I grew up eating nearly all homemade soups -- vegetable beef barley, ham and bean, chicken noodle, chicken rice, turkey noodle, chili, and so on. Soup in its canned form did not grace my parents' pantry shelves, unless it was the "cream of" variety, which would subsequently be poured into a casserole or over a chicken bake. Strangely enough, I don't recall tasting Campbell's tomato soup until well after graduate school . . . I thought I didn't like tomato soup, when in actuality, I don't think I'd ever had canned tomato soup. (I do actually like tomato soup, and it's the only canned soup I'll buy.)
I have been craving chicken noodle soup lately, which is unusually odd, since I am a vegetarian. (I still think fall and winter make us crave the foods of our childhood -- I'm not sure why. Any ideas?) So, I attempted to create a vegetarian chicken noodle soup . . . and oh baby, I have no words. This is a complete, fantastic, culinary triumph on my part. (If I do say so myself.) I think I have nearly replicated the flavors and textures most people come to expect from chicken noodle soup, in a completely vegetarian form. (Well, if we're splitting hairs, it's technically vegan.) So, here's the recipe.
CATHERINE'S CHICKPEA NOODLE SOUP
1. Heat 2 to 4 tablespoons olive or canola oil in a large soup pot. Add a heaping cup each chopped carrot, celery, and onion, and 4 minced cloves garlic. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the onion and celery just starts to turn translucent.
2. Add 6 cups of vegetable broth, 2 bay leaves, and 10 good cranks of black pepper to the pot. Bring this to a boil.
3. Add 1 cup frozen peas and 1/3 to 1/2 a package of whole-wheat fettuccine, broken in 1 to 2 inch pieces, to the pot. Return the soup to a boil, then lower the heat, cover partially, and simmer 15 minutes.
4. Stir in 2 cups cooked chickpeas, 1 heaping tablespoon minced fresh parsley, 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced, and the juice of one lemon. Heat through. Taste and add a little more salt if needed. Remove bay leaves before serving.
(One quick note about the herbs -- look in your market's fresh herb section for a "Scarborough Mix" -- parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Save the sage for pumpkin soup, use the rest for this, and you only have to buy one package of herbs, which can get quite expensive otherwise! Also, one quick note about the broth -- it's essential you buy good broth, obviously. Some vegetable broths I've bought have been quite thick, whereas others have been thinner. I'd vote for a thinner broth in this recipe, since you're going for a soup consistency, as opposed to a stew.)
Finally, there is a LOT of "stuff" in this soup -- if you prefer more broth to "stuff," use less veggies and chickpeas, or increase the amount of broth. But I'm a "stuff" girl, often leaving the broth at the end of my soup adventures untouched. So it's just the way I like it. I encourage you to make it just the way you like it!