Since the new year, I’ve made good on my intention to dive back into meal planning and batch cooking. I spent most of last year immersed in recipe testing that was by turns exciting and exhausting. In December we ate up what was in our freezer, along with a lot of dinner salads and some takeout. I hoped January would be a return to a more regular home cooking routine, and for the most part, it has been.
This isn’t to say that all of what I’ve made has been exciting or memorable. We’ve eaten a lot of simple pasta (and by that I mean pasta + marinara + a cup or can of beans, nothing fancier), a lot of soup, some dinner toast, and I’ve gotten a generous dinnertime helping hand from my favorite vegan products. Compared to last year’s rotation of exciting new dishes, it’s pretty humble.
The thing about cooking, though, is that no matter how humble or random the results, I’m always glad to have done it. Even if I rummage through the pantry and slap a couple of odd ingredients together, even if the results are just OK, I’m still happy to have cooked; I’d still prefer a slapdash, homemade meal to takeout. I can think of very few activities that feel this consistently worthwhile.
This creamy chickpea miso vegetable stew is one of those random creations. It was born of necessity: I cooked a pound of chickpeas in my slow cooker over the weekend and found that they’d gotten a little too soft for salads or bowls. So, I set about making a week’s worth of hummus and this soup, both of which are ideal uses for ever-so-slightly mushy beans.
It’s not the most intentional or deliberate batch of soup I’ve made, but it works. And in fact, I was happily surprised by its simplicity. I was running low on herbs and didn’t want to spend too much time mulling over which seasonings I’d use, so I decided to use miso for both flavor and umami. I don’t usually use miso in creamy soups, but I loved the richness and subtle saltiness that it added here.
I also love the combination of textures: half of the chickpeas get pureed until they’re silky smooth, which adds body to the stew, and the other half stay the way they are. After the creamy portion of the stew has been returned to the pot, you can add any vegetables you like. I had cauliflower, carrots, kale, and a lone rutabaga on hand, but there are plenty of other winter veggies that would work, including broccoli, parsnips, potato, or turnips. Golden beets would be delicious, too (and they’d compliment the soup’s slight sweetness).
Once the soup has simmered for a while, you can adjust the seasoning and serve it with some toast or a hunk of bread, and you’ve got a pretty satisfying meal on your hands. The recipe makes a lot–about 6-8 portions–but it’s freezer-friendly and easy to cut in half if you’d rather not have a lot leftover. I was thrilled to have as much as we did, and I’ve got a bunch frozen in single portions for easy lunches in the next few weeks.
Another advantage of the stew is that it comes together relatively quickly. The chickpeas don’t need to simmer long before the miso is added, since they’re pre-cooked, and after you add your miso slurry and puree half the soup, you only need to simmer it for as long as the vegetables take to become tender. It’s a good candidate for weeknight cooking as well as a cozy weekend meal.
The chickpea/miso combination now has me mulling over a miso hummus; I should probably slightly overcook another batch of chickpeas this coming weekend!
It’s rare that I cook at random these days; blogging and meal planning don’t give me much space to peer into my pantry or fridge and just come up with an idea on the fly. This stew was a happy reminder that really good things can happen in the absence of a plan, and I hope it’s the first of many casual kitchen experiments this year. When I started blogging, my recipes were often happy accidents (mixed up with lots of not-so-happy accidents). I’m glad to have become a little more deliberate and thoughtful with my food, but some spontaneity has been lost, and in the spirit of small adventures that I mentioned last weekend, I’m ready to welcome it back.