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      RECIPE TITLE "Simplest Leek and Chickpea Soup"
    Recipe from: Marcella Cucina Copyright© 1997 by Marcella Hazan

    yields 4 ample, 6 moderate portionstime---difficultyeasy

    We had the briefest of honeymoons, Victor and I, a single winter night in a pensione in Sirmione, a narrow peninsula at the southern end of Lake Garda, a tongue-like extension of land impudently stuck into the underbelly of the huge lake.Sirmione has since been devastated by tourism and the cheap shops and souvenir stalls that cater to it, but it was empty then, and the most romantic of places.We clambered over the ruins of a Roman bath, past a grove of olive trees planted before the birth of Christ, to reach the lake's icy edge, our exhalations dissolving in the wintry mist as we gaily chucked stones to see who could send them bouncing farthest over the water.

    The evening we arrived the pensione served us leek and potato soup, an event that to this day Victor seems to recall more sharply than anything else that took place during our stay.It was, admittedly, a splendid soup, and both of us have adored leeks ever since.

    I use leeks in many ways, nearly always in combination with another vegetable, such as the dish of leeks and artichokes in one of my previous books, a great favorite of ours.None of the things I do, however, is so simple as this aptly named "simplest" soup.Except for trimming the leeks and slowly cooking them in olive oil--not a daunting task for even the least expert of cooks--the most difficult things you have to do are opening a can of chickpeas and grating some Parmesan.

    There is something about the flavor of chickpeas that yearns to be coupled with a member of the onion family.There are many such matches, but none more congenial than this one.


    • 2 1/2 pounds leeks
    • 3 tablespoons extra virgin
    • olive oil
    • Salt
    • One 16-ounce can
    • chickpeas, drained
    • A beef bouillon cube
    • Black pepper ground fresh
    • 1/2 cup freshly grated
    • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


    1. Trim away the root end of the leeks and any part of the green tops that is wilted, bruised and discolored, or dry.Cut the remainder into thin disks.Soak in several changes of cold water.Drain and spin or shake dry.
    2. Put the leeks in a medium saucepan, add the olive oil and salt, turn on the heat to medium low, cover the pan, and cook the leeks at a slow pace, turning them over from time to time, until they are nearly dissolved.
    3. While the leeks are cooking, skin the chickpeas by squeezing off the peel between your fingers, When the leeks are very soft and creamy, add the chickpeas, enough water to cover by 1 to 2 inches, and the bouillon cube.Turn over the contents of the pot with a wooden spoon, put back the lid, and cook for another 15 minutes.
    4. Take two or three ladlefuls out of the soup and puree them back into the pot through a food mill, or chop briefly in a food processor.Add liberal grindings of black pepper to the pot, swirl in the grated Parmesan, cook for 5 minutes longer, taste and correct for seasoning, and serve.In the final stage of cooking, adjust density to suit you.This soup tastes best to me when it is neither too thick nor too runny.

      Ahead-of-Time Note: You can prepare everything even a day in advance, up to, but not including, the moment when you add the pepper and Parmesan.When resuming cooking, warm up thoroughly before executing that last step.

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    Marcella Cucina Marcella Cucina
    Child Best International Cookbook Award! Beard Best Mediterranean Cookbook Award! Since the publication of her first book, The Classic Italian Cookbook, more than 20 years ago, Marcella Hazan has been hailed as the queen of Italian cooking in America. Marcella, whose name conjures up a splendid world of food for the devoted millions who love her books and attend her cooking classes, is back again with her finest book yet, Marcella Cucina. Filled with the passion and personality of its author, it is a book not only of fine food and its careful preparation but of personal reminiscences and penetrating commentary about the sensual pleasure of food and its place in our lives. In vivid introductory essays and seductive headnotes, the narrative of an extraordinary culinary life unfolds. With each memory of a trip, a meal or a flavor, we are treated to the perspective of a great cook and teacher--one who believes that the finest Italian cooking is found in the home. In Marcella Cucina, she focuses on regional cooking, turning her sharp eye to every area of Italy and offering a rich array of flavors and textures from cities and villages alike. Best of all, Marcella cooks at your side with easy-to-follow instructions and lavish full-color photographs that teach you her techniques--from preparing homemade pasta to cleaning artichokes--and allow you flawlessly to re-create her magic in your own kitchen.


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