Saturday, January 17, 2009

Lunch today: Creamy Chickpea Soup with Garam Masala and Cilantro

I have been sick with an awful sore throat since some time late Tuesday night. Despite my best efforts to send it on its way, the darn thing continues to linger, making me grumpy, tired, more or less without appetite and definitely not in any shape to cook. Which has meant that Mr. Fritz has sort of had to fend for himself (and at times both of us) for the past few days. He has done a more than admirable job, even going out into the cold dark night on Wednesday and bringing home wood for the fireplace and a chocolatey mint milkshake to soothe his mopey wife's whims.

But I am at the point now where I am trying to rally, and I thought I might get back on track with this ridiculously simple yet wonderfully tasty offering: Creamy Chickpea Soup with Garam Masala and Cilantro. It's a recipe from Pam Anderson and it appears in her latest cookbook, The Perfect Recipe for Losing Weight and Eating Great. I first tried this recipe when she published it in USA WEEKEND Magazine a few years ago (I made it for Ms. Hays, actually), and was glad to see that it made the cut for the cookbook, because I always thought it was quite ingenious.

To make it, you toss a can of light coconut milk, two cans of drained chickpeas, half a cup of salsa, a cup of chicken broth, two tablespoons of apple juice concentrate, a teaspoon of ground ginger, a tablespoon and a half of garam masala and a quarter cup of cilantro leaves into a blender and puree until smooth. Then you transfer the puree to a dutch oven, bring to a simmer, partially cover and simmer away for 4 to 5 minutes. Ladle into bowls, top with a dollop of plain yogurt (I used Greek yogurt) and some chopped scallions (I skipped them this time) and you're done. The whole thing takes about 10-15 minutes from start to finish and even the cleanup is simple. I served it along with a crusty French bread roll, perfect for dipping into the soup.

What you end up with is something that tastes like a cream soup but actually contains no cream whatsoever, a boon for those who are trying to eat a little lighter this time of year. In fact, a one-cup serving has only about 275 calories, but lots of protein, thanks to the beans. Also nice: since you puree the soup at the beginning and not the end of the process, you don't have to worry about transferring hot liquids from the soup pot to the blender. I wish it were this easy to make all my favorited pureed soups! And to my delight, Mr. Fritz really liked it. I was worried that it would be too spicy for him or that he would be disappointed that it didn't have chunks of chicken or some other meat in it. But that wasn't the case at all. As a result, I will definitely make this again for us both.

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