In the late 1970’s, my first engineering job took me to Tampa, Florida for a week of data collection and surveying. Our team was headed by a University of Central Florida engineering professor who suggested we have dinner at the Columbia Restaurant located in the Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa. I ordered Ropa Vieja — a dish of shredded beef in a rich tomato sauce. This meal was one of my earliest fine dining experiences and I vividly remember sitting at our table in the original restaurant — a bar converted to a cafe in 1905. (There was then and continues to be a much grander dining room at the Columbia with a Flamenco floor show. But, I am thankful we ate in the much simpler Cafe.)
Fast forward and the Columbia Restaurant now has outposts throughout Florida. There is one near my office and I recently enjoyed lunch there with a colleague. We both ordered a cup of the Spanish bean soup as a starter followed by Columbia’s version of a Tampa style Cubano. The Cuban sandwich was good, but the star of our lunch was the Spanish bean soup made of garbanzo beans flavored with pork and chorizo. (A Tampa Cubano includes Genoa salami in addition the traditional layers of roast pork, ham and swiss cheese.)
The original recipe for Columbia’s Spanish bean soup is available online. This version is a riff on the original that ends up lighter and a bit spicier due to the amount of additional paprika in chorizo. It is not a typical “small batch” preparation because it starts with one pound of dried garbanzo beans. As presented, the recipe will serve eight people.
- 1 pound of dried garbanzo beans soaked for 8 hours
- 4 quarts of homemade chicken (prepared, unsalted chicken broth can be substituted)
- 1/2 pound of salt pork
- 8 small Yukon Gold potatoes cut into quarters
- 1/2 teaspoon of paprika
- pinch of saffron
- 1 Spanish style cured chorizo (about 5 ounces) sliced into thin rounds
- Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- In a large soup or stock pot add the soaked garbanzo beans and the chicken stock. If needed add additional water to cover the beans. Bring to a boil and then turn heat to low so the beans and broth begin to simmer.
- Slice the salt pork in half and add half to the pot. Slice the remaining salt pork into 1/8” slices about 1” long and add these to the pot. The larger piece of salt pork will be removed before serving.
- Continue cooking the beans over low heat for about 30 minutes before adding the potatoes paprika and saffron. Cook for an additional 20 to 30 minutes or until the beans and potatoes are tender. Add the sliced chorizo and let simmer for an additional 5 minutes or until the chorizo is warmed through. Adjust the seasoning if needed and serve.