There are two kinds of days around here; the Great Lunch days, and the Not-As-Great Lunch days. The Not-as-Great-Lunch days are those when I find myself up to my eyeballs in pastries or recipe tests and I can’t find the green smoothie I’m sipping on to tide me over until I can clear some space to fry an egg and slap it on toast.
The Great Lunch days are those when I have a couple of neat little jars of flavorful leftovers, just waiting to be enjoyed at the right moment because I had the foresight to make a little extra dinner the night before. On those days, I find myself watching the clock in anticipation of lunch. And, I’m pretty proud to say that most days I’m watching the clock.
It’s not that often that I “orchestrate” a meal. For dinner guests, absolutely. But not necessarily for myself, and rarely on a weeknight. I am pretty good at nailing down a balanced meal, even on a whim (there’s always a few types of proteins, grains, and lots of fresh veggies on hand.) But through all of that, most of the way I cook has everything to do with keeping the leftover game strong. Like you, and even though I spend most of my days in the kitchen, I don’t necessarily have time to make every meal from scratch. That said, my favorite dinner isn’t the choreographed one; its the pantry-clean out, the kitchen-sink salad, the soup that can be whipped up with ingredients I always have on hand. Last week, this Spiced Chickpea Soup w/Quinoa + Tomato was that favorite dinner, that turned into a Great Lunch Day.
Now, full disclosure – there are two ways this can come together for you. One of the ways is that you already have cooked quinoa and canned chickpeas on hand (as I did,) which makes this a meal that comes together in as much time as you can pour a glass of wine. I almost always have canned tomatoes and chickpeas on hand; I choose a great organic kind and don’t mess around with soaking my own (though this is preferable if you have the time.) If you don’t have cooked quinoa, or you’re using dried chickpeas, the recipe takes a bit longer but is just as spectacular for a Great-Lunch later.
A few notes on ingredients here: so, you don’t like quinoa? Use short-grain brown rice, or your favorite variety of rice. And, if you have pre-cooked grains on hand (again, that leftover game – strong!) go ahead and toss those in, cutting your cooking time in half.
Also, If you’re doing a good amount of exercise, or you’re eating the soup on its own as a meal, you may choose to add more grains than I’ve indicated below. If you do, just be sure to add a bit more liquid to the soup to thin it out (more grains = more stew-like texture.) Pistachios can be substituted for pepitas, yogurt for sour cream…you get the picture.
This soup – rich in vegetable proteins – has been a lifesaver in this busy season; a surprisingly impressive dinner served with crusty bread for friends, and a favorite winter-warmer to enjoy on the couch after a long day when we’d rather be making manhattans than big meals. Hope it weaves its way into your repertoire too!
- 2 medium onions, peeled, quartered
- 4 garlic cloves
- ½ cup olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 14.5-oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 8 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 14.5-oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas,) rinsed and drained
- 1/4 cup quinoa or short-grain brown rice
- ⅓ cup plain Greek yogurt
- ⅓ cup chopped unsalted, roasted pistachios, walnuts or pepitas
- a few pinches of sumac, to serve
- chopped cilantro, to serve
- Process onions and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add cumin, coriander, and allspice and cook, stirring often, until onions start to brown, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring often, until mixture is jammy, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in broth and bring to a boil. Add chickpeas, reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, 20 minutes. Add quinoa and simmer, partially covered, until quinoa is cooked, 10-15 minutes; season with salt and pepper.
- Top soup with yogurt and pistachios just before serving.
- DO AHEAD: Soup can be made 5 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill.