rustic parmigiano polenta with greens

I found my thoughts provoked before I sat down to write this post, because I just read this terrific essay by Emma Marris, which lays out how the “gospel” of Alice Waters and her restaurant Chez Panisse has become a cultural force in dining, especially high-end dining, while reminding us more than once that Alice Waters cooks peasant food “but only rich people can afford it.”

I parsed the reality that the kind of cooking that captivates my heart and senses, and moves me toward what I do (and share with you here) is exactly that kind. Call it “cucina povera” – Food of the Poor Peasant – or any one these favored words; “rustic” “simple” “seasonal” and let’s not forget “artisanal.” 

I feel the irony of the situation.  [Read more…]

chopped kale salad with hot smoky dates

I would love to eat a fresh date, preferably right now while taking in the sight of an azure Mediterranean sky through a spray of palm fronds. Today, instead of that, I have muted gray winter light (a chance of snow, they say) and some dried dates.

In Miami, where I once lived, huge majestic date palms were planted all around the grounds of fancy hotels and private homes, and at one of my favorite public spaces anywhere, the Fairchild Tropical Gardens. I’m pretty sure the clusters of brilliant yellow fruit that would sometimes appear on the trees were not good to eat. Date palms are natives of hot, dry desert places.

They’re grown in the humid zone of South Florida, often dug up and imported there from other places at huge expense. But while they can flourish on South Beach like sunbathing debutantes, it’s not their ideal climate for fruit-bearing.

I’ll have to wait until I’m in a place like California in winter to bite into a fresh date, an experience that Alice Waters describes in Chez Panisse Fruit as “soft yielding flesh, with a mildly sweet, rich flavor entirely different from that of the hard, wrinkled and cloyingly sweet dates in the package.”

Medjool dates are dried dates, but far from hard and dry, I think. They have a rich quality – kind of luscious really – plump and tender inside. And you can find them in almost every well-stocked market in the produce section at this time of year.  [Read more…]

chile chickpea brodo, chorizo and greens

chili chickpea brodo with chorizo and greens
Chickpeas, garbanzos, ceci — by whatever name you choose, I love them.

Last week, as I was lying face down on a mat focusing on my breath and the sorry state of my pedicure, I misheard my yoga teacher ask that we take a moment to look into our inner beans.

And so I found myself asking this eternal question, one that can only be answered after a sweaty yoga class and a few minutes of peaceful contemplation – what is my inner bean?

chili chickpeas, chorizo and greens

I emerged from that brief meditation certain that my inner bean was a cannellini; earthy, velvety soft and creamy at the core. A bowl of warm cannellini beans drizzled with delicious green olive oil, strewn with tiny slivers of chopped fresh rosemary and some Parmigiano grated over is one of the most comforting foods I can think of.

However, I came to the conclusion that if I am truly a cannellini being at the core, then the outer being must be all chickpea. I eat them almost every day!

I’d gotten into the habit of using canned chickpeas after many frustrated hours trying to cook dried ones that more often than not were old and stale. But now that diet trends veer toward the Gluten Free Vegan Cave Dweller, chickpeas are a very popular protein choice for many people, which translates into faster turnover and fresher dried beans.

I fell for a method of cooking garbanzos I found in Suzanne Goin’s AOC Cookbook , which is genius because the cooking water becomes a fabulous light broth – or brodo – that is so tasty I keep the chickpeas in it and build a soup meal along with some smoky, slightly spicy chorizo and dark greens.

I find the combination of sharp cheeses with chile peppers hard to resist. Coach Farms was kind to send me a sample of their Grating Stick, an aged goat cheese that my Microplane turned into savory dust on my chickpeas – yum. But lacking that, a good sharp and salty sheep’s milk Pecorino or even feta would be perfect substitutes.

chile chickpea brodo, chorizo and greens

Serving Size: 4 - 6

Ingredients

  1. 1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
  2. 3 whole garlic cloves, peeled
  3. 1 shallot or small onion, finely chopped
  4. 2 dried chile de arbol, crumbled (or 1 or 2 teaspoons crushed red chile pepper)
  5. 1 bay leaf
  6. 1 teaspoon paprika
  7. Kosher salt
  8. 8 ounces short tubular pasta, such as ditallini or tubetti
  9. 4 ounces cooked chorizo, cut into cubes
  10. 1 roasted red bell pepper, peeled, seeded and sliced
  11. A few handfuls of washed mixed leafy greens (spinach, kale, arugula, etc.) stems trimmed; torn into bite-sized pieces
  12. Aged sharp cheese, such as Pecorino or Provolone or dry goat

Instructions

  1. Drain the soaked chickpeas and put into a 3 or 4 quart heavy saucepan along with the garlic, shallot, chiles, bay leaf and paprika. Pour over enough water to cover by 3 inches and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and loosely cover. Cook an hour or so, then add 2 teaspoons salt. Continue cooking until chickpeas are tender - 30 minutes or more depending on the age of the chickpeas. Remove the bay leaf.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente.
  3. Just before serving, warm the chickpeas and broth over low heat. Stir the pasta, chorizo, roasted red pepper and greens into the pot and taste for seasoning, adding a little more salt if needed.
  4. Serve in bowls and grate cheese over the top.
http://familystylefood.com/2014/01/chile-chickpea-brodo-chorizo-and-greens/