Today is the day that marks the end of Christmas in North America, at least for Christians: it is the feast of the Epiphany, when we celebrate the adoration of the Three Kings, the Three Wise Men, to baby Jesus at Bethlehem (click on this link, to read or hear a children’s story I wrote for Highlights for Children magazine a few years ago, where I explain more about the celebration). After today, we take our Christmas decorations down, and a new calendar period starts.
I have to say, as much as I love Christmas and everything that it entails, this period, even with the bad weather, the frigid temperatures, and the snow in Indiana, is one of my favorite ones of the year. The house turns slowly into its normal stage, everybody gets into their routine, be it at school, work, or cooking and blogging. The pace slows down, we look more inwards and live more indoors, and my nature calls for cozying up, for looking at the world from the warmth of a hearth and a cup of tea. It’s the time for stews, and soups, like the piquillo pepper and chickpea soup with rice I’m sharing today.
But I won’t get there quite yet. I’m still savoring the season on its last day. And it was quite a fun Christmas season! We had a full house, with nine of my husband’s relatives from Canada —siblings and spouses, nephews, nieces and parents— visiting. It was crazy, but crazy fun. We enjoyed lots of good food and big meals, laughter, concerts by the members of the third generation, and also many viruses, that could not diminish the cheer and the celebration of being all together, under one roof, for over a week. What a ruckus, and what fun.
This explains my low blogging activity recently, which didn’t lack in cooking, though! —just no time for sitting down at the computer. I baked and baked before our family’s arrival, and cooked and cooked during their stay, with a brief break while we spent a few days in Chicago, and when brother-in-law Harvey cooked up a wonderful roast beef meal. I don’t know what photos to share with this post, since I didn’t have time to take very many (the downside of being host!), so I leave you with a small selection of a bit of everything.
Our relatives left on New Year’s Day, and after that day, I was craving light meals, like salads and soups. And I was looking for easy to make recipes, like this piquillo pepper and chickpea soup with rice, so easy to make, but so full of flavor, it’s almost a no-recipe. The piquillo peppers I used came from Spain, one of the food items I don’t forget to bring every year. Piquillo peppers are a variety of pepper that grows in the north of Spain (check here to know more about them). But I’ve seen glass jars at the supermarket labeled piquillo peppers that, while not the real thing, do the trick well for the soup. You won’t be disappointed.
Happy new year! !Feliz año nuevo!
PIQUILLO PEPPER AND CHICKPEA SOUP WITH RICE
Sopa de Pimientos del Piquillo y Garbanzos con Arroz
For the soup
1 can piquillo peppers (5 oz)
1 cup dry chickpeas, or 1 15-oz can
1 clove garlic
2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs toasted sesame seeds (optional)
1/2 tsp pimentón de la Vera or smoked paprika
3 cups chicken stock
Parsley for garnish
Salt and Pepper to taste
For the rice
2 cups medium grain rice
5 to 6 cups chicken stock
2 Tbs olive oil
3 cloves garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste
Prepare the soup:
Slice one pepper into thin strips and save for garnish. If using dry chickpeas, soak them in cold water the day before. The next day, drain and rinse them. In a large stockpot, add the chickpeas and 2 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 2 hours, until tender, adding 1 cup of water every fifteen minutes or so. Drain and rinse. If using canned chickpeas, simply rinse them.
In a blender or food processor, combine the piquillo peppers, the chickpeas, the garlic, the olive oil, the toasted sesame seeds (if using) and two cups of stock. Blend until smooth.
Transfer the contents of the blender to a saucepan, passing them through a food mill if you’d like a smoother consistency. Add the remaining chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper.
Prepare the rice:
In a saucepan, heat the stock.
Using a cazuela, or a wide pan, heat the oil. Add the cloves of garlic without peeling and sauté for about one minute. Add the rice and coat with the oil, stirring for a minute or so. Add 4 cups of the hot chicken stock to the rice. Stir and let cook at medium to high heat. When the stock is reduced by about one half, lower the heat to low and add one more cup of stock to the pan. Continue to cook until the rice is tender (add more stock if necessary, a few spoonfuls at a time). Remove from the heat.
To serve, pour two laddlefuls of soup into a bowl, and top with 3 tablespoonfuls of rice, a few strips of piquillo pepper and a pinch of chopped flat leaf parsley. Drizzle with a few drops of olive oil.