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Posts Tagged ‘chickpeas’

One day this week, I felt like a change from our usual everyday dinner format of a small first course followed by a larger main course. Aiming for variety and simultaneity, I put together a modest spread of Spanish-style tapas that Tom and I could graze on while enjoying a good bottle of Rioja wine.
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To anchor the meal, I made two new-to-me recipes from Penelope Casas’s Tapas: The Little Dishes of Spain. There’s a revised and expanded edition of this excellent book, but my large, well-thumbed, original 1985 paperback still provides plenty of scope for trying out new dishes, as well as revisiting favorites.
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Chickpeas in Onion Sauce
Garbanzos con Cebolla

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This was a simple, very tasty concoction. I soaked four ounces of dried chickpeas overnight, and the next day put them in fresh water with a clove of garlic, a slice of onion, and a bay leaf and simmered until the peas were tender. They must have been from a very fresh batch of chickpeas, for they took only an hour.

Separately I briefly sauteed a chopped onion in olive oil, stirred in two tablespoons of chopped tomato, covered the pan, and cooked gently until the onions were very soft. (Happily, this winter my grocery stores are carrying truly ripe tomatoes from Mexico.) I stirred this mixture into the cooked chickpeas and left them at the back of the stove, to be rewarmed at dinner time. Excellent! Really, chickpeas are an undervalued resource.
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Chorizo with Pimientos
Chorizo Café San Martin

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This dish wasn’t as good as the first, but I can’t blame the recipe. I had two fresh chorizos in my freezer that it was time to use. The recipe wanted firm, cured chorizo, to be cut in ¼-inch slices for an initial browning. My sausages were uncured and too soft to slice, so I crumbled them into a pan with olive oil. When the meat was fully cooked, I deglazed the pan with red wine and stirred in strips of a roasted red pepper (also from my freezer), a tablespoon of chopped parsley, and a minced clove of garlic.

For the final cooking, I put the mixture in an oiled earthenware dish, covered it tightly with foil, and baked it at 350° for 15 minutes. (That was a simplification of the recipe’s saying to encase the food in foil, bake the packet in the dish, and open the foil only at table.) It was pleasant enough, but not as lively as it would have been with the right kind of chorizos. I should have at least seasoned the meat with more pimentón.
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Toasted Bread with Garlic, Olive Oil, and Fresh Tomato
Pan con Tomate

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Pan con Tomate
is a much-loved tapa everywhere in Spain. Most often it’s served as slices of toast thickly spread with a puree of tomatoes seasoned with garlic, sea salt, and the best available olive oil. I prefer a lighter version, which is also simpler to make.

I toast split lengths of crusty bread; rub them well, first with the cut face of a clove of garlic, then with the cut face of a tomato, so the bread captures a bit of the flesh and absorbs juice; and finish with a sprinkle of salt and a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. The crunch makes a good textural companion with softer tapas, while the simple, direct flavors work happily with everything.
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Raw Fennel with Spicy Mayonnaise

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I don’t know whether this is an actual Spanish tapa, but I think it qualifies as Spanish-style, at least. I flavored mayonnaise with lemon juice and pimentón and served it as a dip for spears of raw fennel. In Spain the mayonnaise would have been aioli, of course. But my smoked paprika gave the Hellman’s a Hispanic touch, and the fennel spears were crisp and refreshing.
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“Hispanified” Barbecued Spareribs

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This is definitely not an actual Spanish tapa. The evening before, Tom and I had dined at a neighborhood restaurant and brought home the uneaten half of an enormous portion of barbecued spareribs. Because the barbecue sauce had been quite sweet, he slathered the ribs with a mixture of mustard, Worcestershire, and Cholula, wrapped them in foil, and reheated them in the oven. Though there was nothing notably Spanish about the result, the ribs made a useful contribution to our eclectic dinner of tapas.
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The Evening’s Wine

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I asked Tom to add a few words about our bottle of Rioja.

A dinner like this, of varied flavors, will work best with a wine of some complexity that can play catch with all those different accents. I thought a fine Rioja with a bit of bottle age would do the job, and 2008 Viña Tondonia proved us right. At age 13 it was just entering adulthood and showed a nice medley of fresh fruit and mature vinous flavors. Riojas are great, adaptable wines, and Tondonia is one of the finest.

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No, not tennis. Last week I was in Trinidad on a birding trip, enjoying warm weather, lush tropical scenery, over 170 species of gorgeous birds . . . and one terrific culinary specialty: Doubles.

Trinidad’s favorite street food, doubles are gloriously sloppy “sandwiches” made with bara, a kind of fried bread, and channa, curried chickpeas. Roadside stands serve doubles on a sheet of greaseproof paper, to be eaten in the hand, standing up. Here’s part of our group waiting to be served (but also keeping an eye out for any passing birds).
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doubles-stand

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The choices on offer were mild, medium, or hot. I had the medium, and Beloved Spouse of course had the hot. Each doubles (singular and plural both end in “s”) cost $4 Trinidadian, which is about 65ȼ US.
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trini-doubles

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They were amazingly good! The light, puffy bread, the tender, succulent chickpeas, the savory curry spicing, and the fiery hot sauce – together all just sang and danced on the palate. I immediately knew I’d have to try making doubles for myself.

And so I did. We got home from the trip on Thursday evening. Friday morning I studied doubles recipes on the Internet and selected different parts of them to make a version that I thought would work best. That afternoon I took a walk to Kalustyan’s, my local source of nearly every exotic foodstuff under the sun, and acquired a few essentials that my pantry lacked:
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3-ingredients

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Trinidad-style curry powder, which has no hot chiles, is milder than its counterparts in other geographic regions but very aromatic from ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, and allspice, in addition to the usual turmeric, coriander, and cumin. The region’s hot sauce is a real killer, made with the devastatingly hot Scotch bonnet peppers, plus vinegar, mustard, and papayas. The yellow pea flour is not in any of the doubles recipes I found online, but a cookbook I’d looked at in Trinidad and a few people I’d talked to there had told me it’s important for doubles.

So Saturday morning I started making the bara for a lunch of doubles. Not knowing if the pea flour would need different treatment, I cautiously used it only half and half with all-purpose flour. Additional dry seasonings were turmeric, cumin, salt, and black pepper.
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bara-flour-mixture

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When those were thoroughly mixed together, I stirred in yeast, warm water, and a little sugar to make a fairly soft dough, kneaded it, and set it aside to rise.
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bara-dough

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While the dough was rising I prepared the channa. That involved softening sliced onions and minced garlic in oil; adding the curry powder, water, chickpeas (canned and rinsed), cumin, salt, and black pepper; and simmering until the chickpeas were tender, which took about half an hour.
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channa

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Finally came the tricky part: shaping and frying the bara. Here I’m afraid I didn’t do too well. The instruction was to take walnut-sized lumps of dough and flatten them out to four- or five-inch rounds. Stretching them as thin as I could without their ripping apart, I still needed twice as much dough to achieve that size.
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forming-bara-2

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One internet recipe warned that if the rounds weren’t excruciatingly thin, flat, and oily, they wouldn’t come out with the right texture. And, alas, mine didn’t. I might have had the oil too hot, too, because though fried for only eight seconds on a side, they darkened in a way that the ones in Trinidad never did; and to the extent they puffed at all, it was in the middle, not around the sides.
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bara-frying

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The good news is that, while my doubles looked nothing like the ones at that roadside stand, they tasted quite good anyway. The bara were darker, denser, and heavier, perhaps from the pea flour. And too much of the channa’s liquid had cooked off. But a few dashes of the hot sauce added the needed moisture and completed a very lively overall flavor profile.
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my-doubles

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That’s nowhere near the true Trini dish, I fear (especially since it’s on a plate, not a piece of paper), but it was an interesting culinary experiment for me. I may well do it again, trying a few changes to achieve lighter, puffier bara.

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In 1968, M.F.K. Fisher said “The trouble with tripe is that in my present dwelling place, a small town in Northern California, I could count on one hand the people who would eat it with me.” Regrettably, I, whose present dwelling place is a huge city in the Northeast, can say the same in 2012.

But Tom and I love tripe. So when I made my newest cookbook purchase, Jennifer McLagan’s Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal, the first section I turned to was the one on tripe. And smiled to see that quotation from Fisher’s With Bold Knife and Fork. McLagan realizes the difficulty of persuading people to eat tripe, which must be why she dubbed this recipe Beginner’s Tripe. It has so many other tasty things in it, she hopes to distract the faint-hearted from thinking about the principal ingredient.

I well know the difficulty of that. To me, tripe’s public relations problem is that it’s not one of those exotic-sounding but mild meats like rattlesnake or alligator, of which you can tell people, “Oh, don’t worry; it really tastes just like chicken.” Tripe doesn’t taste like chicken. Tripe tastes like nothing but itself. It’s animaly. It’s pungent. It’s spongy. It’s Dionysian, not Apollonian. But those of us who like it, like it for just those reasons. Sorry, faint hearts! But – truth be told – this recipe does go a long way toward disguising those characteristics.The recipe is for a sort of stew, which starts with a thick sauce base of olive oil, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, lemon zest, chile flakes, and tomatoes. Nothing to fear there, and plenty of concealment for the tripe!

The tripe, cut into tiny strips (thanks, Tom), goes into that sauce along with some meat broth, and cooks lengthily on top of the stove until it’s tender. McLagan says to blanch it first, but tripe is sold so cleanly pre-cooked these days that I rarely bother to do that, and I didn’t this time. No problem.

Now here comes the interesting part, which is the major tripe-distracting ingredient in the recipe: chickpeas. Cooked or canned chickpeas (I used good canned ones) are drained, rinsed, dried well, and sautéed in olive oil until browned. To them are added sliced chorizo and diced red bell pepper, all of which is further sautéed until the chickpeas are crunchy, the chorizo rendered, and the pepper softened.

Once all those things are added to the tripe and sauce, heated together briefly, put in a serving dish and topped with parsley, the chickpeas take on the lead role and the terrifying tripe becomes almost undetectable to both the eye and (alas!) the palate in the busy, colorful mixture.

This is a really good dish, flavorful and lively. It wants some crusty peasant bread to sop up the sauce with, possibly a green salad alongside, and a red wine strong enough to stand up to the spicy density of the dish. It might indeed convert a tripe-timid person – though for true aficionados, there isn’t enough tripe in it. Tom wants me to double the proportion of tripe, next time we make it.

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