Chickpea Minestrone with Arugula Pesto / by Alexa Arnold

This weekend, I went to see a live recording of one of my favorite podcasts, Death, Sex and Money. The theme of the show revolved around the podcast's one-year anniversary, and the host honed in on guests' reflections about the past year. The show was so relatable, not only because the host has a particular talent at getting guests to be remarkably candid about trials in their lives, but because this week was also the one-year anniversary at my job, which means I've been in New York for nearly a year and a half, and this city has given me a lot to learn from. 

Most importantly, this year has been a lesson in finding peace with ambiguity and learning to let go of the things I can't control. Being okay with uncertainty is something I've been trying to master for my entire life; some days are more successful than others, but some days I indulge in fear and lose myself in a cycle of reactionary thoughts, and before I know it, I've traveled to a dark, irrational place. This week was one of those weeks, but reminding myself that I'll probably look back a whole year from now and think, "wow, I learned a lot from that moment", is comforting. New York doesn't give you the option of being in complete control, so learning to roll with the punches, and notice and appreciate the beauty in the moment, instead of worrying about tomorrow, is really the only alternative. What should we do when so many changes are happening at once? Lean in. Change is constant, and embracing it with open arms feels so much better than fighting to stay put in the past.

I've touched on this on this blog already, but picking and choosing ingredients and inventing new ways to pair them to create a wholesome meal, is so therapeutic for me. I've been dreaming of this soup for weeks. My dreams about how a meal is going to take shape often start simply, maybe with one or two key ingredients, like fresh spring peas and imperfectly shaped purple potatoes. Add an old standby, the chickpea, and some slow roasted onions, and you've got yourself the bulk of a hearty minestrone.

 This soup is even more interesting when paired with a slice of thick, crusty bread with a dollop of arugula pesto spread across it. If you're feeling adventurous, try throwing the arugula toast under the broiler for a few minutes, then setting it right on top of your soup bowl. There's something about the way the spicy green spread melts into the minestrone broth; it's the perfect comfort on a slightly chilly spring day. 

Chickpea Minestrone with Arugula Pesto

Serves 4.
(Adapted from What's Cooking Good Looking)

Ingredients:
For the minestrone:
> 2 lbs fingerling potatoes, sliced into bite-sized pieces
> 1 medium-sized yellow onion, diced
> 4 cloves garlic, crushed and diced
> 1 cup chick peas
> 4 small baby bok choy (or substitute any of your favorite greens) 
> 3 sprigs fresh thyme
> 1 tablespoon olive oil
> 6 cups water
> 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper
> Salt and pepper to taste
For the pesto:
> About 4 cups loose arugula leaves
> 2 tablespoons olive oil
> 2 cloves garlic
> 1/3 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
> 1 tablespoon lemon juice
> Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:
1. In a large soup pot, roast the onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent and soft.
2. Add the potatoes, crushed red pepper, thyme, salt and pepper and cook for 5 more minutes.
3. Add the chick peas and water, bring to a boil for a few minutes, and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 90 minutes on low heat.
4. While the soup is cooking, prepare the pesto. Combine all ingredients into a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add a little extra olive oil if you need. 
5. When the soup has almost finished cooking, taste, and if it's a little too watery, keep simmering for another 20 minutes or until you've reached your desired flavor. Add the baby bok choy and cook for 10 more minutes.
6. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with a side of pesto toast.