Chickpea and Dumpling Soup

I was reading last Thursday's post on Sprouted Kitchen about brownies, and I was surprised, since Sara Forte's (the author) tagline is "a tastier take on whole foods"... Such indulgences don't generally appear on her site.  As I read the post, I noticed that, when describing why these decadent brownies had made this rare appearance, she noted that they were "the kind [she] would eat warm with a scoop of ice cream and feel riddled with guilt about for the rest of the day".  Why is it that we associate guilt, among other negative emotions, with what we eat?  The best explanation I've heard, when discussing this topic with my dormmates over lunch, suggests that we have established a reward system surrounding food in this country.  We designate certain foods those which are only to be eaten when we "deserve" them.  In my experience, food guilt is also related to self-confidence in our appearance... Those who are more confident in their appearance tend not to experience food-related guilt, or subscribe to this reward system.  What do you think?

I've removed myself from this reward system during college, because having crew practice six times a week tends to burn a few calories.  I am generally a healthy eater... I won't pretend that I eat only salads and fruit and yogurt every day, but yes, I do enjoy feeling good about what I'm putting into my body, so I try my best to make wholesome choices.  I say wholesome, and not healthy, because healthiness generally connotes low-fat, low-sugar, low-calories, low low low, blah blah... I value foods which are "clean" - that is, foods without a lot of preservatives and fillers and chemicals - over foods which are low-this-that-or-the-other which are guaranteed to drop a pant size in a week, et cetera.  That junk isn't food, it isn't really nourishing, it's just some cardboard that you're nibbling on to keep your stomach full.  I'm not suggesting that to eat a stick of butter every day is a wholesome or "clean" choice, nor am I arguing that fruits and veggies are for squares (trust me, I encourage eating more of these because they are, indeed, wholesome).  I'm just suggesting that these foods which are labeled with the stigma of unhealthiness (butter, oil, sugar, bread, et cetera) can have a regular place in our diets, in moderation.  But I'll always argue that butter is better for you than margarine, real sugar than no-calorie sweetener, reduced fat milk than skim, and so on, because those "healthier" choices are less wholesome.  So come on, live a little, care about what you put into your body... Aaaand have some butter.

Anyway, now that I'm done being dogmatic, let's talk soup, wheee!  I've never actually eaten the whole chicken-and-dumplings-thing, I've only seen it in magazines and on TV... Although I'm kind of a big fan of doughy things with gravy things and other stuff (i.e. chicken pot pie).  Yes, I realize that was quite eloquent.  I really don't know why I've never had chicken and dumplings, maybe I'll make it and post about it sometime.  Until then, this soup is inspired by a food magazine article I read about three years ago, lounging around Barnes & Noble... The recipe just appealed to me, since I'm also a sucker for all things soup.  I didn't write down the recipe, so I developed this from memory and my other experiences with soup-making.  The dumplings are adapted from Tyler Florence's recipe found here.  This recipe is super (souper?  lulz, probably not an original pun) easy to make, and makes you feel all warm and cozy inside.

Chickpea and Dumpling Soup

1 yellow onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano 
2 (28 oz. each) cans whole, peeled tomatoes in juice (I got ones with basil)
2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 cups water

Chop the onion into a medium dice, then make a paste of the garlic.  To make this garlic paste, mince the garlic as finely as possible.  Make a little pile of garlic, then pour on 1/4 teaspoon salt (it's important that it's coarsely ground for this).  Place the blade of your chef's knife at a very acute angle to your cutting board, scraping down and across the garlic and salt until it becomes a paste.  Alternatively, use a garlic press to crush the garlic and add the full 1 1/4 teaspoons salt later.

Warm the olive oil in a stock pot over medium heat, then add the onion.  Saute until translucent, then add the garlic, remaining salt, and oregano.  Cook until everything has melted down a bit.  In the meantime, open the tomatoes.  I buy whole tomatoes because I really enjoy doing this next step, but feel free to buy diced tomatoes (but I may judge you a little for it... don't you like to play with your food?).  Pour the tomatoes and juice into a large bowl, then, using your impeccably clean hands, break down the tomato flesh into small pieces.  Remove the basil leaves (if you're using canned tomatoes with basil), chop them up, then add them back into the tomatoes.  Add these newly crushed tomatoes to the pot with the stock/water and stir, allowing the mixture to come up to a boil.  Open the chick peas, then rinse and drain them before adding as well.  Cover the pot and bring the whole mess up to a simmer, then allow it to bubble away for 20 minutes.  While the soup is simmering, make the dumplings:

1 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sour cream
~1/4 cup [whole] milk or buttermilk

Stir the flour, baking powder, and salt together, then pour in the milk/buttermilk.  I do this with a spoon, because whisks are annoying when all of the batter gets stuck.  Also, do this slowly, because you may need less than 1 cup of liquid.  Then stir in the sour cream.  Before you add the dumplings, be sure to check the broth for seasoning (it's harder to add salt/oregano after the pot is full of delicate dumplings).  Drop heaping teaspoonfuls of batter into the simmering soup (don't let it boil rapidly, especially during the dumpling stage).  Cover and poach the dumplings for ~15 minutes until cooked thoroughly.  DON'T STIR (you'll break the dumplings!).  Keep the heat around medium-low to prevent the bottom from burning.

Serve sprinkled with some parsley/basil, or with a dollop of sour cream, because I basically love sour cream on everything.

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