The only ribbon I've ever won in The State Fair of Texas cooking contest was in 1998 for Chick pea, swiss chard and porcini mushroom soup. It was a proud moment. With my mason jar, red ribbon and two curly top daughters we slurped the prize winning contents under the blue October sky alongside Big Tex.
My ribbon hangs in the kitchen over the top of a cocktail shaker, between a silver pitcher badly in need of polishing and the tiny milk frother I use to attempt a Starbucks experience. It's the perfect spot.
Chick pea, swiss chard and porcini soup - by Viana la Place
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 bunch Swiss chard, about 1 pound
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 14-oz can chick peas
4 canned imported Italian tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
2 1/2 cups water
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Freshly grated imported Parmesan cheese
Place the porcini mushrooms in a small bowl with enough hot water to cover. After 20 minutes, carefully lift the mushrooms out of the water and place in a fine-mesh sieve. Run cold water over the mushrooms, carefully feeling for any remaining sand. Strain the soaking liquid through several layers of paper towels or cheesecloth. Cut the mushrooms into strips.
Strip the leaves of the Swiss chard from the stalks. Reserve the stalks for another use. Put water to measure 1/2 inch in the bottom of a medium braising pan. Add the Swiss chard leaves and a little salt to taste. Cover and cook over high heat until the chard is tender. Drain and chop coarsely.
Place the olive oil, butter, and onion in a soup pot. Cook over low heat until the onion is tender and golden, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add the garlic during the last 2 to 3 minutes of cooking.
Add the mushrooms and saute them for a few minutes. Add the chard, stir well, and let cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chick peas and let them absorb the flavors for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes and raise the heat to high. Add the water and the porcini soaking liquid. Bring to a boil, then simmer the soup for 40 minutes with the lid partly on.
Before serving, grind black pepper over the top and stir. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese on the side.