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Gypsy Soup

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I've hit a wall, it seems.  I don't exactly know what to tell you about this soup.  How to explain how perfectly delicious it is, in a way only a fabulously flavored but essentially simple soup can be.  How even though I used water instead of stock, the broth was bright and nearly singing, and how it left only the faintest hint of a tingle on the lips as a suggestion of the warmth that was coming once it hit my belly.  

This is a classic gypsy soup, classic because it comes from Molly Katzen's seminal Moosewood Cookbook and in my mind, it's just about perfect.  It's chunky, filling and satisfying but most importantly, it feels nourishing.  Although honestly if you're going to hint at tingly lips, I'd prefer to go for it, and would probably increase the amount of cayenne to whatever increment is above a pinch.  A forceful dash, perhaps.  


And if all of this weren't enough, eating gypsy soup can make you a good little feminist.  In her book A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove, Laura Schenone writes of Katzen's new vegetarian cuisine that is was liberating, that "a dish like Gypsy Soup offered not only a chance to rebel against the corporate powers that built weapons, pesticides, and commercial foods but also a chance to challenge mother's bland dishes and the narrow gender roles prescribed by Betty Crocker...[Gypsy Soup promised] an adventurous culinary and spiritual journey far away from those commercialized kitchens of the 1950" (Schenone, 330).  That might all be a lot to ask of such an essentially humble concoction, but today's focus on fresh, whole foods owes much to Katzen, and rarely do idealist pursuits taste so good.


Gypsy Soup

Olive oil for sauteing
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, passed through a press
3 smallish sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 medium fresh tomatoes, chopped 
1 green bell pepper, chopped, membrane and seeds removed
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
4 cups water

Seasonings:
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of cayenne
2 bay leaves
1 Tablespoon tamari

In a dutch oven, warm the oil and saute the onions, garlic, celery and sweet potatoes for 5 minutes.  Add the seasonings, except for the tamari, and the water.  Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the remaining vegetables and the chickpeas and continue to simmer for 10 minutes more, until the vegetables are as tender as you'd like.  Stir in the tamari and adjust the seasonings.

Notes: 
*  You can use a good stock in place of the water, but water worked just fine for me
*  For dried chickpeas, you will need 3/4 cup, which should be soaked at least 3 1/2 hours, but preferably over night.  To cook them, fill a pot with water to 1" above the soaked chickpeas and cook, mostly covered, for 1 - 1 1/2 hours.
*  You can used canned chickpeas, but rinse them and know the texture and flavor won't be quite as nice.
*  The idea of the gypsy soup is to produce a predominantly orange and green concoction, so you can substitute any orange or green vegetable, like carrots, squash, peas or green beans.
*  For a more substantial meal, I've seen the soup topped with a poached egg, as The Slow Cook did a while back.
* If you can't find tamari, you can use regular soy sauce, although...
*  Don't be afraid to invest in a bottle of tamari.  You can use it in cooking in place of soy sauce, or even in place of salt for some extra flavor, as Camilla did here in a salad dressing from Enlightened Cooking.

*     *     *

I'm sending this soup in to No Croutons Required, the monthly vegetarian soup and salad event being hosted this month by Lisa, of Lisa's Kitchen!




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