“As we honor and pay tribute to soup, I also wish to encourage my readers to use the art of soup making to bring relief to the poor and the hungry near or around us. In ancient times, when monasteries were located within the city walls, monks and nuns provided soup and bread to the poor who daily knocked at their doors. Many monasteries still follow this ancient evangelical practice, and this is where the idea of “soup kitchens” to help the poor originated….Soup making, soup sharing, and soup giving done with love and a selfless spirit can be occasions for endless joy.”
—Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette, Twelve Months of Monastery Soup
Thanks to my daughter Dee, I have a new favorite soup. When we were visiting recently with her in New York, she said, “Next to where I work is a shop that sells a really good tomato soup.” Oh? What kind of tomato soup? “Well, it has chickpeas and cauliflower.” What kind of spicing? “Curry. It was spiced with curry. Do you think you could make it?” Yes, I think I could.
I decided to roast the cauliflower, which has a mild—some might even say bland—taste. It seems to me that roasting improves almost any vegetable. From there I would go to onion and garlic, the basis for most soups, followed by a can of tomatoes, a can of chickpeas, and a teaspoon and a half of curry powder as well as a pinch of red pepper flakes. Readers, this is one of the best soups I have ever made. The nutty chickpeas complement the mild cauliflower, and the curry blends with the tomatoes to produce a spicy but smooth flavor. I could eat this soup once a week, and I’ll certainly be making it regularly during the impending months of cold weather, which in Maine stretches through three seasons and at least six months. With so much cold weather, soup can be a great consolation.
I began this piece with a quotation from Twelve Months of Monastery Soups. During the upcoming holiday season, indeed throughout the whole year, we should follow Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette’s advice. Hunger and food insecurity are on the rise in the United States. According to yesterday’s New York Times, “the number of people in households that lacked consistent access to adequate nutrition rose to 49 million in 2008, 13 million more than in the previous year and the most since the federal government began keeping the data 14 years ago.” Surely the richest country in the world can do better than that, and what better way to start than with soup—nutritious, delicious, soothing, and economical.
Curried Tomato Soup with Chickpeas and Cauliflower
1 small onion, chopped fine
3 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
1 ½ teaspoon of curry powder
1 pinch of red pepper flakes (or more, if you like things hot)
1 head of roasted cauliflower
1 (19 oz.) can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 (28 oz.) can of crushed tomatoes
1 can of water, using the tomato can
First, roast the cauliflower. Cut the cauliflower into small pieces, toss with some olive oil and bake at 375°F until the cauliflower is tender and slightly browned, about twenty-five minutes. When the cauliflower has cooled, chop into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
Sauté the garlic and onion for a few minutes in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chickpeas, the tomatoes, the can of water, the curry, and the pepper flakes. Simmer for 45 minutes or so. Add the chopped cauliflower and simmer another ten minutes. Garnish with either sour cream or yogurt if you like, which I always do.