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Spanish Pumpkin and Bean Soup

This chunky soup is made even more interesting with the addition of diced pears and a classic Catalan picada thickener of garlic, almonds and bread. In Morocco, lentils might be used instead of chickpeas or white beans, and sometimes rice or braised greens are added to the mix.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas
  • 1 cup small dried white beans, such as Great
      Northern
  • 2 quarts plus 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup diced ham
  • 1 Tbs. sweet paprika
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
  • Pinch of saffron, steeped in 1/4 cup hot chicken
      stock or water
  • 12 almonds
  • 1 slice bread, cut in half
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbs. sherry vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled and coarsely chopped
      pumpkin or butternut squash
  • 3 pears, peeled, halved, cored and cut into
      chunks
  • 1/2 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into
      2-inch lengths
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions:

Pick over the chickpeas and white beans, and discard any misshapen beans and stones. Rinse the chickpeas and beans and drain. Place in a bowl, add water to cover generously and let soak overnight, then drain.

In a saucepan over high heat, bring the water to a boil. Add the chickpeas and beans and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the chickpeas and beans are tender, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, in a sauté pan over medium heat, warm 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir in the ham and paprika, mixing well, and then mix in the tomatoes. Cook for 10 minutes to blend the flavors. Add the saffron and stock to the pan, mix well and set aside.

In another sauté pan over medium heat, warm the remaining 6 Tbs. olive oil. Add the almonds, bread and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the almonds, bread and garlic to a mortar or a small food processor. Grind with a pestle or process to a paste. Add the vinegar, mixing well. Set aside.

After the chickpeas and white beans have cooked for 1 hour, add the pumpkin and pears and simmer for 10 minutes. Finally, stir in the tomato-onion mixture, the green beans and the bread mixture, and simmer until the green beans and pumpkin are tender and the flavors are blended, 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle into warmed bowls and serve immediately.
Serves 6 to 8.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Lifestyles Series, Soup for Supper, by Joyce Goldstein (Time-Life Books, 1998).