I love Wednesdays because that’s the day newspapers run their food sections. And let’s face it, one of the reasons I love city living is the restaurants, the specialty markets, the many grocery stores and farmer’s markets. I love the New York Times Wednesday Dining section and read it without fail online, often buying the print edition because I love reading it as a section (rather than various stories posted online) and cutting out recipes and tips I want to keep.
I also love Wednesdays because of What’s Cooking Wednesday, a brainchild of Shan over at Tales of a Fairy Blogmother which I discovered via one of my favorite blogs, Bleeding Espresso. What’s Cooking Wednesday is essentially a weekly cooking post to get out of the dinner rut. I have always loved the feature, but it never fit in with my old blog’s theme.
Fortunately, now it does!
For my first Wednesday doing this, I am going to share with you a recipe I found on The Traveler’s Lunchbox. I love this blog and have been reading it for over a year. Melissa, the author, is currently in the midst of an across-the-world move (Scotland to the Pacific Northwest) so she’s on hiatus, but the archives are wonderful. I can’t wait for her to start posting again.
The recipe is Catalan Chickpeas with Tomatoes and Almonds and it’s SO good. And yes, I realize chickpeas in any form are one of my favorite foods, but the recipe is really that good. Even my husband, who does not love chickpeas with my obsessiveness, loved this recipe.
I have included the recipe below with some of the tweaks I had to make (I did not have any saffron for example). Melissa credits Nancy Harmon Jenkins’s Essential Mediterranean for this recipe, so I will credit both Nancy and Melissa for this wonderful recipe. The end result is rich yet light. And not too expensive either considering how decadent it tastes, even when substituting the turmeric for the saffron.
Catalan Chickpeas with Almonds and Tomatoes
Serves 3-4 hungry people
2 (14oz/400g) cans chickpeas, drained
1/4 cup (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and grated or finely minced
1 can (14oz/400g) plum tomatoes in juice, preferably Italian, drained and chopped
pinch saffron threads (CGL note: I used a pinch of turmeric instead)
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup (50g) lightly toasted almonds (CGL note: I used the Trader Joe’s roasted and lightly salted ones, toasted them in the oven for 5 min. Be sure to cut back on salt if you are using salted almonds)
small handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 1/2 cups (325ml) vegetable stock (CGL: I ended up using more like two cups to get the sauce to really come together and the chickpeas buttery soft)
juice of 1/2 lemon, or to taste
Try the chickpeas – if they’re not completely soft to the bite (and canned ones rarely are), bring them to a boil in lightly-salted water and cook them until they are, usually about 10-20 minutes. Drain. (CGL note: I was skeptical about how necessary this was, but it’s very important. When you soften them, they are buttery and wonderful when added to the sauce and aromatics.)
In a heavy frying pan (CGL Note: I used my Le Creuset 5 quart dutch oven, and it was the perfect size. I would recommend something bigger than a 3 quart pan, but it’s personal preference), heat the oil over medium-low heat and sauté the onion until it is golden brown and very soft, about 25 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and sugar, letting them fry until they melt into the onions and form a paste, about another 10-15 minutes. This is called a sofregit, and its intense flavor forms the basis of many Catalan dishes. Remove the pan from the heat.
In a large mortar or food processor, combine the saffron, garlic, almonds and parsley and pound (or pulse) to a thick paste (add a little water if necessary to keep things moving). Add the paste to the onion mixture along with the stock and the chickpeas, bring to a boil over medium-high heat and simmer until the liquid has reduced to a thick sauce, about 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and lemon juice to taste. Serve hot or at room temperature; you’ll find that this dish keeps developing in flavor the longer it sits. (CGL Note: I cooked it for more about 20-25 minutes instead of 10-15 minutes. And I used the juice of a whole lemon to counterbalance the richness of the dish).
Note June 2010 – this recipe is naturally vegan and gluten-free so I updated its labels accordingly for indexing purposes.