Lemony, Spicy Pasta with Chickpeas (Cecci con la tria)

The very interesting combination of pasta and chickpeas originally comes from Puglia, on the heel of the Italian boot. It is served drizzled with diauliciu (the Devil’s condiment), as the Chili Olive Oil is called in many parts of the Italian south.  All the versions I tasted were made with fresh homemade pasta, part of which was fried, adding a lovely crisp to the dish. 

You can achieve a similar effect with the dried commercial pasta (see Note).

 

Scroll down for the variation, based on the NYT Roman version of the Pasta with Chickpeas with rosemary and tomatoes, instead of lemon.

 

 

Serves 4

 

1 cup chickpeas, soaked in water overnight, or 3 cups pre-cooked, frozen chickpeas

 

1/2 cup olive oil

 

1 pound homemade fettucine, or any commercial dried pasta –linguini, spaghetti etc.

 

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

 

1-3 dried pepperoncini, or good pinches Aleppo or Maras pepper, to taste

 

Sea salt

 

1 cup vegetable or chicken broth or more, as needed

 

2 bay leaves

 

3 tablespoons or more freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste

 

Plenty of freshly ground black pepper

 

Flat leaf parsley to sprinkle

 

Fruity olive Oil to drizzle

 

 

If using dried chickpeas, drain and cook in plenty of water, over low heat, for an hour or, until tender.  Drain the chickpeas, but reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

 

If you like, and you are using homemade pasta warm the olive oil in a large heavy skillet, and fry about a quarter of the fresh pasta, until crisp.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. 

If you are using dried commercial pasta skip this or see Note. 

In the same olive oil, sauté the garlic and chilies for less than a minute, without letting the garlic color.  Add the cooked chickpeas sprinkle with salt to taste, and sauté 2 -3 minutes more.  Pour in 1 cup of the reserved cooking liquid, or broth, add the bay leaves, and cook for another 5 minutes or more, until chickpeas are tender, adding more broth as needed.

 Stir in the lemon juice, taste and adjust the seasoning with freshly ground pepper and more lemon juice, or salt, if you like.

 

You can prepare the dish a few hours in advance up to this point.

 

About 20 minutes before serving, boil the pasta al dente, following the package instructions, drain it, and add it to the simmering chickpeas. Crumble the fried pasta, add to the skillet, toss and adjust the seasoning.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve, drizzling each plate with fruity olive oil.

 

NOTE:  If you are using commercial dried pasta, boil a handful for 4 to 5 minutes, until it starts to soften.  Drain well on paper towels and then fry it in olive oil until crisp.

 

VARIATION:

Pasta with Chickpeas with Tomatoes, Rosemary, and Chicory

Adapted from the NYT recipe, by Colu Henry

Sautee one coarsely chopped onion and the garlic, then add 2-3 fresh, diced tomatoes and 1-2 sprigs fresh rosemary with the chickpeas; cook until tender, then add 1 cup ditalini pasta into the broth.  After 5-6 minutes, add 2-3 cups coarsely shredded kale, or radicchio. Toss and cook until pasta is done. 

 

 

 

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Baked Sweet Squash

This simple, wonderful Turkish treat is called kabak tatlisi, and is a favorite dessert served in all kinds of restaurants and taverns.

Paula Wolfert, in her wonderful book  The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen, explains her most ingenious, simple way of making it perfect! All you need is time to bake the squash slowly. Use your phone timer if you have not an automatic oven that you can set it bake the squash for 1 ½ to 2 hours.

In my recipe below I have reduced the amount of sugar, as I find that butternut squash is by itself very sweet!

We like to serve it with mastic or vanilla ice cream sometimes adding the walnuts that Paula suggests sautéing in butter, something I don’t usually do.

In Turkey this baked squash is usually served with kaimak (clotted buffalo cream).

See also the elaborate Greek Squash or Pumpkin Preserves (rossoli).

 

 

 Serves 4

 

1 pound (500 gram) peeled butternut squash, cut into about 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces

 

2/3 cup superfine or baker’s sugar

 

Optional accompaniments:

 

About ½ cup toasted walnuts

 

1 cup crème fraîche, or thick yogurt, or ice cream

 

 

Mix the squash pieces with the sugar in a shallow glass or ceramic baking dish and let stand for at least 30 minutes, or until the squash weeps and the sugar melts.

 

Preheat the oven to 300°F (150 C). Use your fingers or a wooden spoon to mix the squash and sugar. Cover with a crumpled sheet of wet parchment paper, place in the oven, and bake for 1½ hours, or more, until the juices boil and the squash is tender.

 

Turn off the oven and leave the dish inside until completely cool. (The squash will continue to re-absorb their syrupy juices.)

 

 

Store in a cool place or in the refrigerator. Let return to room temperature before serving. If you like, sprinkle with walnut and/or accompany with crème fraiche, thick yogurt, or ice cream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bulgur Salad with Nuts, Spices, and Tomato Paste Dressing

My recipe is inspired by the Syrian Jewish Bazargan, yet one more wonderful dish introduced to the world by the unsurpassed Claudia Roden in her 1968 classic Book of Middle Eastern Food, that she later updated.  

I am surprised that we don’t find this irresistible bulgur ‘salad’ along with the ubiquitous hummus and the other Mediterranean-inspired prepared foods offered at the counters of the gourmet supermarkets.

Bazargan is traditionally eaten together with other meze; but it is filling and very satisfying, so we often eat it as main course during  our summer lunches, accompanied by a simple tomato or cucumber salad.

 

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Assertively spiced with cumin and seasoned with tangy tamarind, bazargan makes a terrific appetizer especially if you serve it elegantly on lettuce leaves, or on toasted pita bread. Once you’ve tasted it, you will want to keep eating it until every last grain has disappeared…

 

Make sure you listen to the latest long, wonderful interview of the incredible Claudia Roden! She is such an inspiration for all of us!

 

Makes 6-8 servings, 10-12 as appetizer  

 

(more…)

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Olive Oil, Whole-wheat, Yeasted Pastry

A versatile, quite easy olive oil pastry with yeast that makes a lovely crust for savory as well as sweet tarts. See note to see how you can store the rolled dough in the freezer, which gives you the possibility to double the recipe, so that you have a pastry shell to use whenever you feel like whipping up a pie.

It is adapted from Martha Rose Shulman’s recipe, as published in the NY Times Cooking.

 

 

 

Makes Two 10-inch tart shells

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Lemon-marinated Carrots with Finocchio, Mint, and Arugula

This is a salad even the more avid meat-eaters –like my friend Stathi— will love. I first made it for our joined Easter table, early in May, inspired by a salad we had whipped up some years back with thin slices of butternut squash that I had marinated in lemon, then served with equally thin slices of zucchini. I think I had sprinkled the mixture with crumbled feta, but I don’t remember, really. This carrot salad was a big success, and our friends, in whose house we had the Easter lunch, loved it, saying that the leftover were even better the next day.

 

As I was writing this, I remembered another carrot salad, that one a classic from North Africa: The Tunisian Carrot Salad is also laced with lots of lemon juice, and unexpectedly scented with caraway seeds. Dietician will tell you that lemon makes you absorb all the wonderful nutrients of carrots; but this is an added bonus to the really brilliant combination of sweet and sour, that we, in the Mediterranean, adore!

 

Note the beautiful stoneware ceramic bowl my dear friend Hara Bahariou has created. I am so happy to have many of her exquisite creations in which I serve my dishes; makes such difference at the table!

 

Serves 4-6 (more…)

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