Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Garbanzo Bonanza

He was the size of a fingertip when DH named him “Chickpea.” Poring over What to Expect and feeling that brand of intense wonder that only new parents experience, we marveled at the size of our son growing in my belly. Little “Chickpea.” Baby bean boy. Our legume of love. Okay . . . I’ll stop. Parenthood makes you goofy.

At age three (if we called him doodlebug, or crunch tater, or pumpkin) he would state, with furrowed brow, “Please call me by my name.” Nicknames struck my serious son as more confusion in a confusing world. Perhaps diminutives robbed him of needed control. But he embraced “Chickpea.” I like to think he heard it in the womb.

Chickpea hasn’t eaten chickpeas yet, but hummus is a staple with Mom and Dad. Easily available at Weaver Street Market, where they make it fresh, we eat hummus at the kitchen counter after a day of work. Weaver Street batches range from smooth and lemony to nutty and thick. I imagine that the task of making hummus is assigned randomly to various cooks in the kitchen—some with more experience, some with specific preferences. Consistency may be the hobgoblin of little minds, but I like it without any lumps.

In Italy they call them Ceci, and a simple ceci puree was a part of our marathon meal at La Pievina, the family owned restaurant down the road from the agriturismo we stayed at. A simple antipasti, with translucent green olive oil drizzled over the top. Once you sit down at La Pievina, they ask you one question: “Carne, pesce o vegetariano?” And then the games begin. Nine or ten antipasti, four or five primi piatti, two or three secondi piatti, five dolci, all accompanied by wine and finished with grappa and vino santo.

After the seventh antipasti, we begged for mercy, but the food kept coming. Highlights were salmon ravioli, pasta with boar ragu, almond cake, and the purreed ceci. Our hostess, an apple-cheeked older woman in a white apron and mop hat, brought out soft drinks and toys for the children. And then, four hours later, she wrapped the leftovers in paper packages adorned with cherry-laden branches from the trees out in the yard.

You’ll have to eat many bowls of this dish to feel as stuffed as we were. But it’s got those Tuscan flavors. Here’s Pasta e Ceci from Jamie’s Italy:

Pasta e ceci
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 stick celery, trimmed and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
A sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
2 14 oz cans of chickpeas
2 ¼ cups of chicken stock
3 ½ oz. ditalini or other small Italian “soup” pasta
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Handful of torn basil
Put the finely chopped onion, celery, and garlic in a saucepan with a little extra virgin olive oil and rosemary and cook as gently as possible, with the lid on, for 15-20 minutes, until all the vegetables are soft, without any color. Drain your chickpeas well and rinse them in cold water, then add them to the pan and cover with stock. Cook gently for half an hour then, using slotted spoon, remove half the chickpeas and put them to one side in a bowl. Puree the soup in a food processor, then pour back into a pan. Add the reserved chickpeas and the pasta, season with salt and pepper, and simmer gently until the chickpeas are tender and the pasta is cooked. Add water if the soup is too thick. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Serve drizzled with olive oil. Sprinkle with freshly torn basil or parsley.


Jenious said...

A pregnant friend of mine refers to her baby as a pea :-) Really enjoyed reading this post. Great memories tied into a tasty recipe.
~Jen aka

Pam said...

I love the nickname chickpea. Our daughter is bug. This recipe looks hearty and delicious