Dried mushrooms are a cook's friend. They can hang out in your pantry for an eternity, and then when you're ready to bring them out to play, they do so with such power and energy the only downside is you feel guilty for not inviting them to the party earlier.
For a plant-based cook, their appeal is even stronger, because they add the kind of depth and umami to your cooking that you may have thought was possible only through the use of slow-cooked meat.
In this soup recipe, dried porcini transform a simple combination of chickpeas, Swiss chard and aromatic vegetables. You soak them in hot water, strain them and use the soaking liquid as a mushroom stock. You chop the rehydrated mushrooms and add them, too.
The soup is so flavorful, you may have to remind yourself that, rather than gulping it down, you should slow your pace and savor it.
Chickpea, Chard and Porcini Soup
4 servings (6 cups)
1 ounce dried porcini
3 cups hot water
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (may substitute vegan butter)
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
One (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, plus their juices
One (14-ounce) can no-salt-added chickpeas, drained and rinsed 1 sprig rosemary
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed
Freshly ground black pepper
10 ounces (1 bunch) Swiss chard, stemmed and shredded
Parmesan, hard goat cheese or other flavorful hard cheese, shaved (may substitute vegan Parmesan)
Soak the porcini in the hot water for 30 minutes. Remove the mushrooms with a slotted spoon, reserving the soaking water. Rinse the mushrooms briefly under cold water (they can be gritty), pat dry with a clean dish towel and coarsely chop. Strain the mushroom soaking liquid through a sieve lined with cheesecloth or paper towels into a bowl.
In a saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the olive oil with the butter. When the mixture is hot, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for 1 minute, then add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, for another 2 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, rosemary, reserved mushroom soaking liquid, salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, and simmer gently until the flavors meld, 20 to 30 minutes. Add the chard and cook until it is tender, about 5 minutes.
If the soup seems too thick, thin it out with a little water. Discard the rosemary. Taste and add salt and/or pepper as needed. Ladle into warmed bowls, drizzle over some olive oil, and top with the cheese shavings. Serve hot.
Note: If desired, use canned white beans, such as cannellini, instead of the chickpeas, and kale or spinach instead of the chard.
Adapted from "River Cottage Veg" by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Ten Speed Press, 2011.