by Andrea Sperling


I'm rehashing this blog post from my old blog about Marcella Hazen, who died recently. Her Chickpea Soup With Arborio Rice is still one of my favorites, and I will honor her memory by making it again this week. When I became gluten-free, it was comforting to know that I could still eat this hearty and easy to prepare chickpea soup.

Marcella Hazan is my Julia Child. I’ve cooked and eaten my way through much of Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking and learned, as they say in the musical  Nine, how to “Be Italian,” from this 1992 classic cookbook.

Ever the groupie, years ago I even went to see Ms. Hazan give a lecture at New York’s Metropolitan Museum, which goes to prove that cooking Italian food is a fine art. I remember a man in the audience asked her what her favorite recipe was for clams. She looked at him like he was crazy for asking such a question and said, “It depends what you’re in the mood for at the time,” an answer that only an Italian could give. It made perfect sense to me, even though I’m not Italian. (Although having been to Italy at least a dozen times, I like to think of myself as an honorary Italian).

I love this cookbook because as a home cook who grew up on Poptarts and canned vegetables, it taught me that if you respect your ingredients – the best meat, fish, fruits and vegetables, cheeses and herbs you can afford, there’s not a lot of fancy cooking you have to do.

Now that the weather is finally turned a bit colder, I went right to my Marcella Hazan bible and opened it to the Chickpea Soup with Arborio Rice recipe, which tastes almost like a risotto.  It’s one of our winter staples, with a salad and it will always be remembered as the recipe that got my daughter to become a fan of chickpeas, a good source of protein and manganese.  It’s a stick-to-your-ribs kind of dish that even Julia Child would love.


CHICKPEA SOUP  (from Marcella Hazan)

This is one of those really easy soups to make when there’s nothing to eat and you look through the pantry, and voila, there are all the ingredients. When I make this soup, I add a rind of parmesan cheese that’s usually in the refrigerator to act as a bone and give it some depth.

Serves 4 



4 whole garlic cloves, peeled

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 ½ teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed or a small sprig of fresh rosemary

2/3 cup canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up with their juices

¾ cup dried chickpeas, soaked and cooked or 2 1/4 cups canned chickpeas, drained 

1 cup homemade meat broth or 1 bouillon cube dissolved in 1 cup water (I use a vegetable broth when I make it)




Put the garlic and olive oil in a pot that can subsequently accommodate all the ingredients and turn on the heat to medium.

Saute the garlic cloves until light brown, and then remove from the pan.

Add the crushed rosemary leaves or the sprig, stir, then put in the cut-up tomatoes with their juice.

Cook for about 20-25 minutes until the oil floats free from the tomatoes.

Add the drained chickpeas and cook for 5 minutes, stirring.                                             

Add the broth or bouillon, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.                                                   

Puree about half of the soup. If soup is too thick, add a little more water or broth.

Taste and correct for salt. Add pepper.




The Chickpea Soup made from the preceding recipe

3 cups (or more) basic meat broth, or 2 bouillon cubes dissolved with 3 cups water. (I use vegetable broth)

1 cup rice, preferably Italian Arborio rice

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil



Puree all but a quarter cupful of the chickpea soup with an immersion blender or use a food processor. Add the rest of the soup or the dissolved bouillon, and bring to a steady, but moderate boil.

Add the rice, stir, cover the pot, and cook, letting the soup bubble steadily, but moderately, until the rice is tender, but still firm to the bite. Check after about 10-12 minutes to see if more liquid is needed. If the soup is becoming too dense, add more homemade broth or water. When the rice is done, swirl in the olive oil, then taste and correct for salt. Let the soup settle for two or three minutes before serving.



by Andrea Sperling


I confess, I've had acid reflux (GERD) for years. Some health practitioners feel that a gluten-free diet helps reduce the symptoms of acid reflux, as does a diet without a lot of acidic foods, caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, sugar and spicy foods.

If you're interested in food as medicine, one of the best remedies for acid reflux is miso soup. Miso has so many health properties – it's mineral rich,  antibacterial, high in antioxidants and it's alkaline. (Ladies, it's also good for hot flashes!)  I have a cup of miso broth many mornings when my throat is feeling sore from reflux, and it helps get me through the day.

At night, when I want to go all out, I'll make a big vegetable tofu miso soup.   It's just what the doctor ordered after I've been eating badly for awhile. I used to use barley miso in the winter, because with mushroom, it made such an earthy stock, but then I realized it wasn't gluten-free (duh, barley isn't gluten-free, so why would barley miso!), so now I use white, red or chickpea miso. I'll even mix them up. I add gluten-free rice vermicelli or mung bean thread noodles to the broth to make it more filling.  If you can find kelp noodles, they're a great gluten-free alternative to the rice noodles. If you're not gluten-free, try soba or udon noodles.

Do not boil the miso!  You should stir miso into a hot broth at the very end and take it off the flame. Boiling the miso destroys its healthy properties.



Serves 6

First,  make a vegetarian dashi with kombu. (You would use bonito flakes to make a non-veggie version). Kombu is a sea vegetable that is high in minerals and a good source of  iodine. Wakame is another delicious sea vegetable. Both are rich in antioxidants.

After you've made the dashi, the idea is to add whatever ingredients you want, and then add the miso at the end, right before you serve it.  (Since the miso paste is thick, it takes a while to dissolve in the dashi,  so it's a good idea to thin the miso in water first.)

You can use silken tofu or firm tofu, whatever your preference. You can substitute snow peas for the snap peas or add edamame or broccoli as your green. Bok choy would be wonderful, too.

Make the soup stronger, by adding more miso paste. A good rule of thumb is at least a tablespoon of miso per cup of water.  Some miso pastes are stronger than others so experiment and see what you like. In the warmer months, you might prefer a milder white miso. Also, the lighter the miso, the less salty it generally is. The lighter miso is  also less aged, so they will have less depth of flavor. You can even mix the white and red together. If you want to buy miso made from soybeans that are non-GMO, make sure you buy organically grown miso.

As a finishing touch, add a squirt of sesame oil, a handful of shiso leaves, scallions or cilantro. Be creative!


6 cups water

2-3 pieces  of kombu

¼ cup wakame, soaked 5 minutes

1/3 cup dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in warm water

2 small .5 oz packages of rice vermicelli

½ block firm tofu

1 cup savoy cabbage or napa cabbage, shredded

1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks

1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced

3/4-1 cup white miso paste (or more to taste)

Garnish with snap peas, diced on the diagonal

Optional: Garnish with toasted sesame seeds, gomasio, cilantro or shiso leaves

Optional: Squeeze of fresh lemon juice before serving

Optional: A squirt of toasted sesame oil



Boil the kombu in the water very slowly or soak overnight at room temperature. This will be your dashi stock.  Remove the kombu when finishing the preparation of the broth.

Soak 1/4 cup wakame in hot water for 15 minutes.

Soak the mushrooms in hot water for 15 mintues.

Soak the rice vermicelli or bean thread noodles in hot water for about 15-20 minutes.

Cut a ½ block of tofu and dice it into  one inch cubes.

Rinse the reconstituted wakame and chop. Set aside.

Chop the mushrooms. Set aside.

Meanwhile, bring the dashi to a boil. Add the cabbage, carrot, ginger and simmer for 3-4 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

Add the wakame and mushrooms.

Put a spoonful of the miso into your bowl, add some of the broth and dissolve the miso, then add the rest of the ingredients into the bowl. Add the noodles (they will finish cooking in the hot broth), optional garnishes, and serve.