(From Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison's Kitchen, Broadway, 2007 (posted with permission of the author))
I love cooking in clay pots of all kinds, and the Chamba black clayware is no exception. It’s a beautiful material, so soft that it makes me want to cook in a gentle manner, with extra care. But that’s not because the clay isn’t strong — it is. It just gives a different feeling than metal.
Farro and chickpeas needn’t be relegated to the cold season months — they make a fine summer soup too, and they needn’t be served hot. Room temperature is good, too.
This soup takes about fifteen minutes to put together, 30 minutes to cook, but it gains in flavor if it can stand for a few hours.
1 cup farro, soaked 4 hours in cold water
2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
1 celery rib, peeled if stringy, then finely diced
2 garlic cloves chopped with a handful parsley leaves
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 cup finely diced or crushed tomatoes, plus their juices, fresh or canned
1 15˝ ounce can organic chickpeas
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 small handful basil leaves, finely slivered
extra-virgin olive oil
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Drain the farro. Warm the olive oil in a wide soup pot. Add the onion, celery, garlic-parsley mixture. Cook, stirring every so often, over medium heat until the onions are translucent and starting to soften, about 7 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste then add the tomatoes, farro, 1 teaspoon salt, and 6 cups water.
Simmer 30 minutes, covered, until the farro is tender but still toothsome. Stir in the chickpeas and their liquid. (At this point the soup can sit at room temperature for several hours, giving the flavors a chance to meld.)
Reheat the soup before serving if you wish to have it hot, or serve it at room temperature. Stir in the basil, a few drops olive oil in each bowl, and grate a little Parmesan over the top.