Leek and Fennel Soup with Black-Eyed Peas

Zuppa di Porri coi Fagioli all’Occhio

Although we think of black-eyed peas as a distinctively southern U.S. phenomenon, they are part of the Italian tradition as well, though not as common as cranberry and cannellini beans.

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Total time from start to finish: 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 3 medium leeks
  • ½ small yellow onion
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 2 ounces pancetta, sliced ¼ inch thick
  • ¼ cup celery leaves
  • ¼ cup green feathery fennel tops
  • ½ head escarole
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups drained canned black-eyed peas
  • 3 cups homemade meat broth or ½ each beef and chicken bouillon cube dissolved in 3 cups water

Method

  1. Trim the root ends and dark green tops from the leeks. Cut the leeks into 2-inch lengths. Cut each piece lengthwise in half, then into strips about ¼-inch wide. Place the cut leeks in a large bowl of cold water and swish them around to loosen any dirt that is clinging to them.
  2. Peel and finely chop the onion. Put it in a heavy-bottomed soup pot and add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Place over medium-high heat and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onion turns a rich golden color, about 5 minutes.
  3. While the onion is sautéing, peel and finely chop the garlic. Unravel the pancetta and cut it into thin strips about ½ inch long. Coarsely chop the celery leaves and fennel tops. When the onion is done, add the pancetta and garlic to the pan and sauté until the pancetta begins to color, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the celery leaves and fennel tops; cook for about 1 minute. Lift the leeks out of the water and add them to the pot. Cook for about 5 minutes until they are wilted.
  4. While the leeks are cooking, rinse the escarole and coarsely shred it with a knife. You should get about 2 cups. After the leeks have wilted, add the escarole. Season with salt and pepper and continue cooking for 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Add the black-eyed peas and broth. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil (or drizzle some over the individual servings) and serve hot.

Note

You can keep this soup up to 2 days in the refrigerator.

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