“Chickpeas and Peppers with Pine Nut Dressing” or “My last hurrah”


My condiments are gone. My refrigerator is practically empty. My freezer still has random fishy odds and ends my mom stocked while she was here last June–so embarrassing–but I’ve eaten through all my frozen meat, even the last bit of frozen pancetta. I’ve stopped buying the 3-lb. bag of onions, the big hunks of cheese, the 2-lb. bags of turkey thighs. From here on out, I subsist on what’s left in my pantry, comforting myself that very soon, I will be tasting all the famed gustatory delights of Oaxaca.

But I had to try one last new thing, one last tantalizing unknown combination of flavors from Deborah Madison’s “The Savory Way.” I tried to pick something for which I had almost all the ingredients, hence, “Chickpeas and Peppers with Pine Nut Dressing.” The list of ingredients just screams, “California vegetarian,” but I trusted her. Besides, how else could I use up the half a can of chickpeas and bag of pine nuts I had in my fridge? The only thing I had to buy was a small bag of olives and a green bell pepper.

My paraphrase follows:

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked 6 hours or overnight, or 2 15-oz. cans chickpeas
1 onion, quartered and thinly sliced crosswise
1 small green bell pepper, thinly sliced into 2-in. pieces
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 T. virgin olive oil
1 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. paprika
1 t. tomato paste
juice of 1/2 lemon
12 Nicoise olives, pitted, or 6 Kalamata olives, pitted and cut into large pieces
additional paprika for garnish
cilantro or parley for garnish

1/4 cup bean broth (or water or milk)
1/3 cup pine nuts
1 garlic cloves
1/4 cup virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 large lemon
freshly ground pepper
2 T. chopped parsley
1-2 T. chopped cilantro

Drain the beans, cover them with fresh cold water and bring to a boil. Boil vigorously for 5 minutes and remove any foam. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add salt and continue cooking until the beans are soft but still hold their shape, about an hour. Drain the beans, reserving the liquid for the dressing.

While beans are cooking, warm the olive oil in a skillet and add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, cumin, paprik, and lightly salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until onion and pepper are slightly softened, for about 3 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and lemon juice and cook for another 30 seconds or so.

To make the pine nut dressing, heat the bean broth, milk or water. Puree pine nuts in a food processor, gradually adding the heated liquid. Add garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and a little salt and pepper and process until smooth. Add cilantro and parsley and season to taste with pepper.

Toss the beans with the dressing. Add the vegetables and olives and toss again. Garnish with paprika, cilantro and parsley.

Since I had only half a can of chickpeas, I haphazardly reduced the amount of all the ingredients. No lemons, but I had two limes. I had just a few measly sprigs of still-green cilantro, and the puny bit of pine nuts I threw into my 11-cup food processor just kept getting flung around. No smooth puree. But the dressing was so good! Nutty and creamy, but without any actual dairy–dare I say vegan? The salad overall would have benefited from more chickpeas to balance out the peppers and onions, but cooking them only slightly was inspired. Their crunchiness added a lively, fresher flavor than the more familiar, mellow taste of long-cooked peppers and onions. My little counter was a mess of parley and garlic bits, and all for a measly bit of chickpea salad, but it felt good to concentrate and follow an odd little recipe. I’m know I’m going to miss cooking in Mexico.

The rest of my dinner wasn’t so exciting and actually kind of wrong. Pasta all’amatriciana is one of my favorite things to eat, and something I always have the ingredients for. Bacon, onion, and tomatoes are a magical combination, but I mistakenly thought it would be good with some sauteed mushrooms as well, which were also in my fridge begging not to be thrown away. The mushrooms should have had a strong flavor, but they just ended up chewy disks in the sauce, and worse, they made it practically impossible to taste the bacon. The whole wheat pasta didn’t do so well against this sauce–there were just too many flavors that didn’t complement each other. Thankfully, everything improved with a big dusting of parmesan cheese.

But now what am I going to do with the leftover pine nut dressing?



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