Here in the Bay Area, there’s pretty much never a bad time to eat soup. It’s like that thing that Mark Twain said. You know, that quote that everyone from out of town references when describing our weather patterns. Anyway, even though it’s April, it feels like November out there, so you might as well indulge in a scrumptious, home made tomato dumpling soup.
I’ll be honest: I totally borrowed this recipe from A Cozy Kitchen, who admits to adapting it from The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook. When I stumbled across it on the ‘web, I knew it would be a real pleaser. What could possibly be wrong with cheesy dumplings cooked in tomato broth? Nothing! However, from cooking it so many times, I, too, have some tips on how to improve and/or cheapify it.
Here’s what you’ll need:
1 small white onion, chopped
as much garlic as you like
1 can of chickpeas, rinsed (or white cannellini beans)
1 to 1 1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander (optional)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp chili powder or cayenne
3 cups vegetable stock (or vegetable bouillon)
1 14oz can chopped tomatoes (I like the fire roasted variety)
1 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 to 1 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter, chopped and very cold
3 tbsp parmesan cheese
2-3 tbsp herbs (fresh or dried)
4-5 tbsp water (or club soda)
Now, that may look like a long list of ingredients, but you should have at least a quarter of them in your home already. Flour? Olive oil? Salt? Done, done, and done. The only ingredients that might cost you are the cheese and herbs. More on that in a moment.
First, drizzle some olive oil into a big ‘ol pot (technical term), and bring the flame to medium heat. Next, add the onion and saute it for a couple minutes, until it begins to soften. Then add your chopped garlic and dried spices and cook it for another minute or two. This is where you can get creative. The beauty of this soup is that almost anything will taste good in it, so feel free to substitute whatever’s on your spice rack for the ground coriander or chili powder if you don’t have any. However, I do happen to think that the cumin is pretty essential to the flavor of this soup. It adds an irreplaceable element of smokiness that will make your friends say, “Man, I’m flexing my palate HARD right now!” Damn, I love some cumin.
Next step! Add the liquids. Dump the whole can of tomatoes in there and mix it in. If you like a chunkier soup, this is exactly how you’ll leave it. But if you need somethin’ real smoove, you should blend the can of tomatoes first. Or just buy tomato sauce instead. Your call. Just make sure it’s 14 ounces. If you have vegetable stock, great! Now’s the time to add it. If not, you could be a real broke ass and dissolve some bouillon cubes in water instead. I’ve never tried it, but I’m sure it would work just fine.
Finally, toss those chick peas in the pot (I bet white cannellini beans would be a nice substitute) and bring the broth to a boil. When it begins to bubble, cover the pot and bring the heat down to low. You want that baby to simmer for ten minutes.
Whilst it simmers, prepare your dumps. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder. And then wash your hands, for Christ’s sake. Chop your fresh-out-of-the-fridge butter and add it to the bowl. Using your fingers, knead the butter into the flour until it “resembles fine bread crumbs,” as Cozy Kitchen eloquently puts it. I think it looks more like white potting soil or damp cotton, but whatever.
Next, mix in the herbs and cheese, and please be liberal with both. I usually use chives, but basil, thyme, or even sage would be great substitutes. Of course, it’ll taste better if the herbs are fresh, but feel free to use dried if you’re pinching pennies.
Make a little “swimming pool” in the center of the bowl and add the water. Here’s a super special tip: if you use carbonated water as opposed to still, the dumplings will be much fluffier, like little dough balloons. Just something to consider. Either way, mix the dough by hand, and roll the dumplings into twelve golf balls, if not a bit smaller. They will expand to more than twice their size when you cook them.
Last step! Drop the dumplings into the soup, and promptly cover the pot again. Let them simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, and do not peek. It’s more fun when you discover the mutant dumplings on steroids at the end of the cooking process.
Well, there you have it. Hopefully you’ve invited some friends over to enjoy this awesome dinner with you. It should serve about four people with normal appetites or three hungry, hungry hippos. After dinner you should play Scrabble and watch Chappelle’s Show. Oh, and please invite me, too.
Thanks to A Cozy Kitchen for the pic and inspiration.