Super Simple Suppers: Chicks in Red.
Chickpeas have been quite an obsession of mine for the last couple of months. I love a good warm humus spread thickly on a thin piece of soft turkish bread, drizzled with a bit of extra lemon-juice and a bit of chopped coriander sprinkled on top. Heaven. But even something that can cause wars might become a bit dull after some time. So I embarked on a journey to discover other ways of using this my favourite legume. First off was quick stop in Italy: I adore a good tomato-sauce, it’s probably because it is a childhood-favourite of mine and probably also because it just makes everything taste so much better. Get yourself a big bowl and an even bigger spoon and be prepared for my delicious and heartwarming chicks in red.
The initial post to go along with this recipe was an unbearably 1500 words long. I’ve come to realize that sometimes going a bit more into detail might be quite a good idea, but more often than not it isn’t. I was going to write all these clever things about human beliefs, associations and awareness of automatic judgement – but you know what? It is late already, my muscles ache from the gym and I still need to do my daily meditation – so let’s just get over with it, shall we?
This recipe consists of only a few ingredients. Some tomatoes, a bit of garlic, olive oil, salt, chilli, a bit of freshly chopped herbs and, finally, chickpeas. Nothing extremely surprising or exciting – and it will most likely remain mediocre, if you don’t pay attention to the details. And with so few ingredients, pretty much everything is a detail.
I read a lot of books and blogs about food and from all of them certain common concepts seem to emerge. One of them is that of quality ingredients – whatever that might be. When reading books and blogs alike you are often encouraged to “spend the extra dollar” on a tiny bottle of truffle oil, butter, salt or saffron and you are promised that your investment will pay off in the most amazing dishes. I won’t argue against that – sometimes all a dish needs is a single thread of saffron to make all the difference. But sometimes it doesn’t. My Bread&Squeeze appears to be quite a good example for this. It is not the most expensive ingredient that makes for a good dish, it’s the qualities of the ingredient that make all the difference.
Garlic: Often all we can get is a piece of dried out garlic at the supermarket counter. Wrinkly skin and a light musty taste to it. It still looks like garlic, when squeezing it, it still smells like garlic – at least sort of – but is so much less than garlic can be. For this recipe and for every good tomato sauce, try to get yourself a bit of fresh garlic. It will make all the difference, as cheesy it sounds.
Tomatoes: My sauces change with the season. In summer I use the best and freshest tomatoes I can get, right from the vine. In winter I use the canned kind. I have tried my way through most of Groningen’s canned tomato varieties and found that, as often, the most expensive ones didn’t really make for the best sauce. What you are looking for in a good can of tomatoes is low acidity and bright and clean flavours.
Chickpeas: Dried legumes are the strangest things. Chickpeas are no different. They are hard as stone when you buy them, wrinkly and grey and oh so small. But as soon as you let them take a bath, they recover and come back to their full power. Soaking the peas will take some time (depending on their age and the variety anything from 8 to 24 hours) but it will be worth it. Hydrated chickpeas need longer cooking than the canned kind and it might be tempting to just skip this soaking and cooking entirely and buy them ready to use from the supermarket. Don’t. Good food sometimes needs the extra minute and I am willing to pay this prize – especially if you don’t have to be present at all during the soaking and just a little during the cooking. Canned chickpeas often have a bit of this “canflavour” to them. Their taste is just ever so slightly tainted by their time in the can. For the best flavour soak and cook them yourself.
Herbs: There is a large variety of green herbs at your hands that all would work out just fine for this dish. Personally I prefer basil, which stresses the fruitiness of the sauce. Fresh oregano brings a more dominant touch to the dish, takes away a bit of the lightness, but adds more punch. Parsley on the other hand fits quite nicely with the nuttiness of the peas. And coriander will add a lightness and earthiness, that has quite its own charm. Since this dish is an easy and fast one, why not try all of them separately, whenever you are in need of a hearty and amazingly nourishing lunch.
Chicks in red:
I use about 400 mls of canned tomatoes and 250 grams of soaked chickpeas per person.
Chickpeas (see above) Basil (or any other herb you might see fit) Garlic (see above) Chili, dried or fresh Tomatoes, canned Olive oil, good quality - fruity, not bitter (see my salmon salad for info) Salt
This dish is vegan so far – why not keep it that way? If you want to go vegetarian you could add some mozzarella and parmesan.
- Soak the chickpeas.
- Cook the peas following the instructions on your package in a large pan with salted water (add enough so that it tastes like the sea). The peas are done once you can crush them between your fingers, while they still have some bite to them
- Add oil to a larger pan. Squeeze in some fresh garlic and a small amount of chili, if you like. And turn on the heat. Let the garlic and the oil slowly warm up, so that the garlic can infuse the oil. I usually use about a clove per person.
- Once the garlic starts sizzling, add the canned tomatoes to the pan, add salt and cover. Leave to cook for about 10 minutes (this can be done while the peas are cooking)
- Crush the content of your pan, so that you get a rather smooth sauce.
- If you like to keep it vegan, omit this step: Add a hand of grated parmesan to the sauce and give it a quick stir.
- Chop the herb of your choice, if it’s coriander wait with adding to the very last minute- if not, add two third to the sauce and stir in.
- Add your peas to the pot. And heat up for about 5 minutes on medium heat.
- If you kept it vegan so far, omit the mozzarella, if you haven’t, plate your peas and add the mozzarella as well as the remaining third of your herbs.